RaboDirect PRO12 match preview: Ospreys v Dragons
Last Updated: 22/03/13 6:44pm
Alun Wyn Jones returns from international duty to captain Ospreys in Friday's Welsh derby against the Dragons at the Liberty Stadium.
Lock Jones is one of several Wales internationals who will be back in action for the home team, who also have prop Adam Jones, hooker Richard Hibbard and flanker Justin Tipuric in their pack.
Dan Biggar starts at fly-half but Eli Walker is ruled out with a back injury picked up whilst away.
Back rower Ryan Jones is also still on the sidelines with a shoulder problem, while a back spasm suffered in training means Ian Gough is missing.
The Dragons, meanwhile, are boosted by the return of Dan Lydiate, with the flanker making his return from a lengthy injury lay-off on the blindside. His comeback means skipper Lewis Evans moves to the number eight shirt.
They also hand a league debut to winger Ross Wardle; the 21-year-old is currently studying for a pharmacy degree at Cardiff University and impressed against Bath earlier this season in the LV= Cup.
Andrew Coombs is included in the second row while Toby Faletau, another of Wales' heroes in their Six Nations triumph, is amongst the replacements for the visitors.
Newport-Gwent - who are the last Welsh region to get the better of Ospreys - have won their last two away matches in all competitions but have not won three in a row on the road since October 2004.
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Tom Habberfield, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Tom Isaacs, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Jonathan Thomas, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 James King, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Ryan Bevington.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Lloyd Peers, 20 George Stowers, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Ben John.
Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Ross Wardle, 10 Steffan Jones, 9 Wayne Evans; 8 Lewis Evans (c), 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Adam Jones, 4 Andrew Coombs, 3 Nathan Buck, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Owen Evans.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Gustafson, 17 Phil Price, 18 Dan Way, 19 Ian Nimmo, 20 Toby Faletau, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Will Harries, 23 Hallam Amos.
What they said...
Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy
"It's great to be back at the Liberty Stadium on Friday night, for a big Welsh derby, and to welcome home our international boys after they did so well in the Six Nations.
"Last season, they came back to us off the back of a Grand Slam and provided the impetus to build on the work done by the core group while they were away that allowed us to kick on and win the league. Having won the Six Nations again thanks to a great victory against England on Saturday we'll be looking for the boys to have a similar impact this time."
Dragons winger Ross Wardle
"I am very excited to be involved this weekend. Obviously since the LV Cup game which went well. I have been in and out of games with injury, so it's come as a bit of shock for me really.
"Obviously against local rivals, I will be able to put up a good performance and show people what I can do and I can play regularly in the squad and the Dragons progress."
RaboDirect PRO12 2012/13 Round 18
Leinster make seven changes ahead of their derby against Ulster as an array of internationals return to league action.
Ian Madigan scored all Leinster's points as they went top of the RaboDirect PRO12 by beating Glasgow Warriors 22-17.
Paul O'Connell made a try-scoring return in Munster's 22-0 RaboDirect PRO12 derby win over Connacht.