Ospreys gunning for Exiles double
January 13, 2011
James Hook will be hoping to inspire the Ospreys at the Madejski © Getty Images
The Ospreys are on the road this Sunday as they look to take Pool 3 of the Heineken Cup down to the wire with a victory over struggling London Irish at the Madejski Stadium.
The Welsh region are currently third in the tournament's 'group of death', one point behind Munster and three behind Toulon, with the French side the visitors to the Liberty Stadium in the final round of action.
After their back-to-back losses at the hands of the leaders the Exiles are out of contention and currently riding a wave of 10 successive defeats in all competitions. Failure for the Ospreys would spell disaster and another wasted opportunity, particularly given the form shown in their 27-16 win over Irish on home soil back in October.
London Irish - Player to Watch: If the Exiles are to break their losing run then fly-half Daniel Bowden is going to have to orchestrate it.
London Irish - Team News: George Stowers moves from No.8 to blindside flanker, with Chris Hala'ufia coming in at the back of the scrum. Darren Allinson replaces Paul Hodgson at scrum-half to face his fellow countrymen, while Delon Armitage returns at fullback after his compulsory EPS rest last week.
Ospreys - Player to Watch: With international rival Gethin Jenkins sidelined through injury, loose-head Paul James will be keen to put in a big showing on the eve of the Six Nations.
Ospreys - Team News: Captain Alun Wyn Jones, tight-head Adam Jones, scrum-half Mike Phillips, flanker Marty Holah and prop James all make a return to the starting line-up while James Hook makes his 100th Ospreys appearance at inside centre. Wales fullback Lee Byrne is set to make his comeback from injury off the bench.
Key Battle: The match-up of London Irish inside centre Seilala Mapusua and his opposite number Hook could be worth the price of admission alone. Both supremely gifted, their game-breaking skills are sure to be central to proceedings.
Trivia: The Ospreys have made the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup in the last three seasons, but are yet to taste the rarefied atmosphere of the last four.
Stats: The Ospreys have lost their last four away games in Europe - defeat this weekend will equal their worst run on the road in the tournament.
"You need to go into games with positivity, energy and intensity in order to win and we have put a huge amount into recent performances. The game this weekend will be no exception and the whole team is going out determined to get a win under its belt." - London Irish boss Toby Booth
"This is the first of two season-defining games over the next couple of weekends and you can't failed to be excited by the challenge. It's why we're all involved in rugby isn't it?" - Ospreys head coach Sean Holley
Prediction: The big guns are back for Ospreys and should keep the region's euro hopes alive while heaping further woe on the Exiles.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures