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Ospreys v Connacht - RaboDirect PRO12 match preview
Defending RaboDirect PRO12 champions Ospreys go in search of their fourth successive victory when they tackle Connacht at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.
The home side have made two changes to their starting side as blindside flanker Joe Bearman and tighthead prop Aaron Jarvis come in for Ryan Jones and Adam Jones.
The backline remains unchanged as the Welsh region look to bounce back from their disappointing Heineken Cup finish against Leicester at Welford Road last weekend.
Connacht coach Eric Elwood has made seven changes. Two of those changes are positional with George Naoupu moving from his regular number eight position to lock in place of an injured Mike McCarthy while Robbie Henshaw replaces Eoin Griffin.
Mata Fifita replaces Dave McSharry and joins Henshaw in the new centre partnership. Darragh Leader, 19, earns his first competitive start for the province at full-back.
On the bench, former Stormers player Danie Poolman is set to make his first appearance for the province. Rodney Ah You and Dave Gannon also return to the bench as forwards.
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Eli Walker, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Jonathan Thomas, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Joe Bearman, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (cpt), 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Ryan Bevington.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dwyer, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Joe Rees, 19 James King, 20 George Stowers, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Tom Isaacs.
Connacht: 15 Darragh Leader, 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Mata Fifita, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 John Muldoon, 5 George Naoupu, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Nathan White (cpt), 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Dave Gannon, 20 Johnny O'Connor, 21 Dave Moore, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Danie Poolman.
What they said...
Ospreys forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys
"Connacht are a very dangerous team, Eric Elwood has taken what was already a tough, physical group and looked to expand their game," said Humphreys.
"We know that we are going to have be well prepared, diligent and focused if we are going to get what we want out of this fixture, and it'll need to be a real team effort on and off the field."
Connacht coach Eric Elwood
"Over the years, we've had huge physical encounters with the Welsh side and we'll be expecting the same this weekend. It's another big challenge but we take great encouragement from our performances of the last few weeks," he Elwood.
"Last Saturday, we went toe-to-toe with the English champions and competed with them for the 80 minutes. We played some great rugby and we'll be looking to do the same this weekend against the Ospreys.
"We know it's going to be a hugely physical battle but we're very much looking forward to the test. The goal for us is to keep improving and continue on our upward curve."
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Guinness PRO12 Table
|Friday 27th February|
|19:35||Ospreys vs Leinster|
|19:35||Ulster vs Scarlets|
|Saturday 28th February|
|19:15||Munster vs Glasgow Warriors|
|Sunday 1st March|
|12:45||Cardiff Blues vs Edinburgh|
|17:00||Zebre vs Dragons|
|17:15||Connacht vs Treviso|
|Friday 6th March|
|19:35||Cardiff Blues vs Connacht|
|19:35||Glasgow Warriors vs Zebre|
|Saturday 7th March|
|14:40||Ospreys vs Munster|
|17:15||Scarlets vs Leinster|
|18:00||Benetton Treviso vs Edinburgh|
|Sunday 8th March|
|16:00||Dragons vs Ulster|
|Friday 27th March|
|19:35||Leinster vs Glasgow|
|19:35||Ulster vs Cardiff Blues|
|Saturday 28th March|
|TBC||Benetton Treviso vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|TBC||Ospreys vs Zebre|
|14:40||Scarlets vs Edinburgh|
|17:15||Munster vs Connacht|
|Friday 10th April|
|19:35||Glasgow vs Cardiff Blues|
|19:35||Benetton Treviso vs Ospreys|
|Saturday 11th April|
|TBC||Edinburgh vs Munster|
|TBC||Zebre vs Scarlets|
|14:40||Connacht vs Ulster|
|Sunday 12th April|
|16:00||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Leinster|
|Friday 24th April|
|19:35||Edinburgh vs Zebre|
|Sunday 22nd February|
|Dragons 25 - 30 Connacht|
|Saturday 21st February|
|Glasgow 19 - 16 Ospreys|
|Scarlets 25 - 25 Munster|
|Friday 20th February|
|Edinburgh 17 - 20 Ulster|
|Leinster 29 - 8 Zebre|
|Benetton Treviso 40 - 24 Cardiff Blues|
|Sunday 15th February|
|Leinster 14 - 16 Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Zebre 10 - 54 Glasgow|
|Scarlets 32 - 14 Connacht|
|Saturday 14th February|
|Munster 33 - 16 Cardiff Blues|
|Friday 13th February|
|Edinburgh 24 - 16 Ospreys|
|Ulster 43 - 3 Benetton Treviso|
|Sunday 11th January|
|Ospreys 22 - 11 Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Benetton Treviso 20 - 24 Ulster|
|Saturday 10th January|
|Zebre 7 - 31 Munster|
|Cardiff Blues 13 - 22 Leinster|
|Friday 9th January|
|Connacht 13 - 16 Edinburgh|
|Glasgow 22 - 7 Scarlets|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com