Friday's Rabo Pro12 preview: Top of the table Leinster travel to Ospreys

Last Updated: 11/04/14 7:04pm

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Zane Kirchner: Starts for Leinster against Ospreys

Zane Kirchner: Starts for Leinster against Ospreys

Sky Bet

RaboDirect Pro12 league leaders Leinster have named a strong side as they travel to the Liberty Stadium to face the Ospreys on Friday.

This is the fourth time the teams will have met this season, with Leinster winning home and away in the European Cup, but sharing a 29-all draw at the RDS in round 2 of the Pro12.

Leinster go into the game on the back of their Heineken Cup loss at Toulon last weekend, with the only serious injury from that game to Fergus McFadden, who limped off in the first half. Zane Kirchner, who replaced him on Sunday, starts in Swansea.

Noel Reid comes in at 12, with Gordon D'Arcy moving outside, while the final change in the back line sees Isaac Boss start at nine, with Eoin Reddan making way. Luke McGrath is selected as the back-up scrum-half.

There are four changes to the pack with Sean Cronin, Martin Moore, Leo Cullen and Kevin McLaughlin coming in from the start.

There is plenty of experience on the bench, with Mike Ross and Devin Toner among the options available to coach Matt O'Connor, while there is a welcome return from injury for Darragh Fanning and Collie O'Shea.

Fifth-placed Ospreys sit four points outside the play-off places, having played a game more than fourth-placed Glasgow, whom they narrowly lost to 11-9 in their last outing.

"It's do or die for us over the next four games now. We have to put in consistent top level performances between now and the end of the season if we are going to secure a play-off spot," said head coach Steve Tandy.

"We were extremely disappointed with the result in Glasgow, which has left us playing catch-up, but the attitude from the entire squad has been first class since then and the boys are really looking forward to the challenge ahead.

"It's crucial that we get the performance right on Friday night. Do that, and the rest will fall into place. We know that Glasgow are now favourites for the fourth spot, but we won't be giving up. We've got to keep on going, maintaining pressure on the teams above us in case they slip up. The top four have all got to play each other between now and the end of the season so we have to make sure that if results go our way, we can take advantage."

Bounce back

In Friday's other action, third-placed Ulster take on Connacht at Ravenhill looking to bounce back to winning ways in the Pro12 after their six-game winning run in the competition ended when they were defeated 23-28 by Cardiff last time.

Connacht's four-game streak in the Pro12 also came to an end last time - a narrow 32-30 defeat to Scarlets - and the visitors will have it all to do, having not won at Ravenhill since November 1960, while the Ulstermen have lost just once at home in their last 14 matches in the competition.

In team news, Tommy Bowe will start at outside centre for Ulster, and he is joined in midfield by Luke Marshall, who will make his 50th appearance for the hosts in the game.

Ricky Andrew replaces the suspended Jared Payne at full-back, with Craig Gilroy starting on the left wing.

Andrew Trimble, who suffered concussion in last weekend's 17-15 Heineken Cup defeat to Saracens, has followed the necessary return to play protocols, and starts on the right wing.

Paul Marshall is selected at scrum-half alongside Paddy Jackson. Up front, Andrew Warwick makes his first start for Ulster with Rob Herring named at hooker and Ricky Lutton selected at tighthead.

Captain Johann Muller is joined by Iain Henderson in the second row. Robbie Diack starts at blindside with Nick Williams selected at number eight and Chris Henry continuing at openside.

There are five forwards on the bench with Niall Annett, Tom Court, Adam Macklin, Lewis Stevenson joined by backs Michael Heaney, James McKinney and Stuart McCloskey.

Darren Cave and Stephen Ferris have been rested.

For Connacht, head coach Pat Lam has named an unchanged side for the fourth successive game.

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