Magners League - Game of the Week
Phillips starts for Ospreys' Murrayfield mission
March 5, 2010
Mike Phillips returns for the Ospreys © Getty Images
Magners League leaders the Ospreys will face a tough test of their title credentials on Sunday as they travel to face Edinburgh at Murrayfield.
All eyes will be on the return of scrum-half Mike Phillips for the visitors after he was rushed on to the Wales bench for the Six Nations visit of France last weekend. He didn't get a chance to show his form on that occasion but Wales boss Warren Gatland will no doubt be an interested observer as he prepares the squad to face Ireland and Italy in their remaining games.
Phillips will need to hit the ground running as Edinburgh have been boosted by the return of Mike Blair from international duty. Blair captains the side and is partnered at halfback by his brother, David.
Alan MacDonald and Ross Rennie start in the back-row. Rennie and MacDonald will need to be on guard against the Ospreys' All Black back-row, with captain Jerry Collins joined by openside Marty Holah and veteran No.8 Filo Tiatia.
Ian Gough also bolsters the Ospreys' pack after being released from the international setup and there is a welcome return for Ian Evans alongside him. Head coach Sean Holley can call on plenty of class in midfield as internationals Dan Biggar and Andrew Bishop start at No.10 and 12 respectively. Holley has bracketed a number of players for starts, with Barry Davies and Gareth Owen set to be confirmed at fullback and Ed Shervington and Richard Hibbard vying for a start at hooker.
"This is the tightest I've ever seen the Magners League I think, and with seven games to go there's still a lot to play for," Holley said. "We've five away games in those seven, we've still got to go to places like Munster, Leinster, Ulster and the Dragons after this weekend, they are not easy games. We'll be looking for a big performance on Sunday and we want to improve on our Connacht performance, which wasn't great.
"We've been boosted by the addition of some of the Wales contingent, who will join up with us later in the week. We are grateful to the Welsh management for allowing these boys to return to us, their availability has certainly allowed us more options going into a difficult game."
Edinburgh: Ben Cairns; Mark Robertson, Nick De Luca, John Houston, Simon Webster; David Blair, Mike Blair (capt); Kyle Traynor, Andrew Kelly, Geoff Cross, Scott MacLeod, Steve Turnbull, Alan MacDonald, Ross Rennie, Roddy Grant
Replacements: Sean Crombie, Ryan Grant, Craig Hamilton, David Callam, Greig Laidlaw, Phil Godman, Tim Visser
Ospreys: Gareth Owen / Barry Davies; Jonny Vaughton, Sonny Parker, Andrew Bishop, Nikki Walker; Dan Biggar. Mike Phillips; Ryan Bevington, Richard Hibbard/Ed Shervington, Craig Mitchell, Ian Gough, Ian Evans, Jerry Collins (capt), Marty Holah, Filo Tiatia
Replacements: Ed Shervington / Marc Breeze, Cai Griffiths, Andy Lloyd / James Goode, Steve Tandy/Ben Lewis, Jamie Nutbrown, Ashley Beck, Barry Davies / Gareth Owen