Ospreys rolling out big guns for away-day derby trip to Dragons
THE Ospreys have picked their strongest possible side for trip down the M4 to face the Dragons tomorrow afternoon (3pm).
It bucks the trend of Allen Clarke resting his big names for away matches as the race for play-off spots heats up in Conference A.
The Ospreys are currently in the third and final play-off place, but have Connacht and the Cardiff Blues snapping at their heels.
There is also the added significance of the clash being a Welsh derby to consider.
Clarke has named an unchanged starting XV for the game at Rodney Parade, following their win over Scarlets, meaning star names George North, Scott Williams, Justin Tipuric and Alun Wyn Jones all retain their spots.
But there are changes on the bench where Cory Allen comes in for Keelan Giles, with Clarke yet to make a call on whether Rhodri Jones will replace Rowan Jenkins or if Luke Price will take James Hook’s place.
“There’s a great vibe in camp coupled with a constant ambition to get better week on week,” said Clarke.
“It’s important to us that every squad member is progressing, feeling valued and, equally, adding value to the team whether in the match-day 23 or not.”
As for the Dragons, they’ve had to deal with the loss of Lloyd Fairbrother, who was banned for three weeks after being sent off during the defeat to the Cardiff Blues for dangerous play.
In comes Aaron Jarvis, making his first Guinness PRO14 start for the region, to face his old side in the No.3 jersey.
The only other changes to the team that narrowly lost to the Blues before Christmas come on the bench, where Dan Suter and James Benjamin get the nod.
Tyler Morgan misses out despite returning to training this week and stalwart Adam Warren plays his 100th league match in the midfield.
“The Ospreys are a good team and they showed that last weekend in the win against Scarlets,” said Dragons interim head coach Ceri Jones.
“Sam Davies and his kicking game is huge for them, they have loads of power and a good defensive line.
“There are a lot of challenges to face, but we have to look at ourselves and the performance that we put onto the pitch last week, when we were dominant in a lot of areas.
“We are in a good place and phases of our play were outstanding with good ambition to play, we intend to go out there and do the same thing.”
The Dragons are without injured Wales internationals Ross Moriarty, Ollie Griffiths and Leon Brown, while the Ospreys’ key absentees are Dan Lydiate and Nicky Smith.
DRAGONS: Zane Kirchner; Jared Rosser, Adam Warren, Jarryd Sage, Hallam Amos; Josh Lewis, Rhodri Williams; Ryan Bevington, Elliot Dee, Aaron Jarvis; Brandon Nansen, Matthew Screech; Cory Hill (c), Aaron Wainwright, Harrison Keddie. Reps: Richard Hibbard, Gerard Ellis, Dan Suter, Lewis Evans, James Benjamin, Tavis Knoyle, Jason Tovey, Jordan Williams.
OSPREYS: Dan Evans; George North, Scott Williams, Owen Watkin, Luke Morgan; Sam Davies, Aled Davies; Gareth Thomas, Scott Baldwin, Tom Botha; Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones; Olly Cracknell, Justin Tipuric (c), James King. Reps: Scott Otten, Rhodri Jones/ Rowan Jenkins, Alex Jefferies, Lloyd Ashley, Sam Cross, Tom Habberfield, Luke Price/James Hook, Cory Allen. REFEREE: Dan Jones (WRU). KICK-OFF: Rodney Parade, tomorrow, 3pm.
Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke