Ospreys v Glasgow, Magners League semi-final, May 14
Ospreys pull out big guns for Warriors battle
May 13, 2010
Marty Holah starts at openside for the Ospreys after a long season on the front-line © Getty Images
The Ospreys will pit their glittering cast list against the gritty Glasgow Warriors on Friday night for a place in the inaugural Magners League grand final.
The Welsh club have won the top prize twice before but have a golden opportunity to silence their doubters in a knock-out competition having again come up agonisingly short in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.
Their progress was ended by a one-point loss to Biarritz in San Sebastian and they cannot afford to slip up again, this time in front of their home faithful. The Warriors have consistently punched above their weight this season and have absolutely nothing to lose, making them a difficult proposition even without skipper and Scotland scrum-half Chris Cusiter, who misses out with a knee injury.
The Ospreys' preparation has been interrupted by the news that they will begin next season four points behind their rivals as a result of a points deduction imposed by Celtic Rugby in the wake of the postponement of their fixture against Ulster on March 19. The club was also fined £100,000.
The league meetings between the two sides yielded a 9-9 draw at the Liberty and a 26-16 win for the Ospreys at Firhill and coach Sean Holley has not been shy in throwing his big guns into action once again. After thrashing the Dragons 42-10 last weekend to ensure home advantage they can call on a full international contingent of 12 Welsh Test players, one Irish and two All Blacks.
Mike Phillips and Dan Biggar are named at halfback, with James Hook starting at inside-centre after it was confirmed that he required shoulder surgery at the end of the season. Lee Byrne, Tommy Bowe and Shane Williams form a world-class back-three while the home side's back-row, Jerry Collins, Marty Holah and skipper Ryan Jones, has a settled look.
Holley was quick to warn his side against complacency and also highlighted their lack of accuracy in recent weeks as a worry heading into a game that could define their season.
"We need to be more clinical about things, that is obvious to everyone," he said. "We're pleased with the way we are playing, our game plan and system is good, and what has been particularly pleasing has been the number of line breaks we are regularly making. But, line breaks aren't enough to win games, as we saw against Biarritz. We've been drumming that message home to the boys, it's about attention to detail. That is the difference between winning and losing when you get to this stage of a competition."
Cardiff-bound fly-half Dan Parks could play his last game for the Warriors after breaking the Magners League scoring record under their banner and he is joined at halfback by Mark McMillan, who will join Bath next term. Scotland international centre Max Evans is fit to take his place in midfield alongside Graeme Morrison while Canadian wing DTH van der Merwe, Bernardo Stortoni and Rob Dewey provide the firepower out wide.
A major boost for the visitors comes in the form of openside John Barclay, who is fit to start in the 'Killer Bs' back-row alongside Kelly Brown and Johnnie Beattie. Barclay had been a doubt with a shoulder injury and missed last weekend's comfortable win over the Scarlets. Hooker Dougie Hall will not play any part, however, after suffering a dislocated thumb.
Despite the blow of losing his skipper, Glasgow boss Sean Lineen was confident that his side could cause an upset on the road. "It just shows the strength in depth of the squad. 'Cus' hasn't managed to pull through but what a replacement we've got in Mark McMillan. He's been a fantastic player for us all season. We've won down in Wales before so the players are going down there with one thing in mind. It's going to be a 22-man effort and that has been evident this week, which has been an interesting one in training. Although it's been a long season, it feels as though it's starting again."
Ospreys: Lee Byrne; Tommy Bowe, Andrew Bishop, James Hook, Shane Williams; Dan Biggar Mike Phillips, Paul James, Huw Bennett, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Jonathan Thomas, Jerry Collins, Marty Holah, Ryan Jones (capt)
Replacements: Ed Shervington, Ryan Bevington, Ian Gough, Filo Tiatia, Jamie Nutbrown, Gareth Owen, Nikki Walker
Glasgow Warriors: Bernardo Stortoni; Rob Dewey, Max Evans, Graeme Morrison, DTH van der Merwe; Dan Parks, Mark McMillan, Ed Kalman, Fergus Thomson, Moray Low, Tim Barker, Alastair Kellock (capt), Kelly Brown, John Barclay, Johnnie Beattie
Replacements: Pat MacArthur, Kevin Tkachuk, Dan Turner, James Eddie, Hefin O'Hare, Duncan Weir, Colin Shaw
Referee: George Clancy (Ire)
Assistant Referees: Dudley Phillips (Ireland), Leo Colgan (Ireland)
Match will be broadcast on BBC Wales