All eyes on Byrne brothers as Leinster clash with Ospreys

Leo Cullen focused on season amid questions about when head coach will leave province

Leinster v Ospreys
RDS, 5.00pm, Saturday (Live RTE2, Premier Sports)

Leo Cullen, going into his eighth season as Leinster coach, declined to be drawn into a discussion about moving away from the RDS at some stage of his career.

Cullen, this week signed a one-year extension to his contract, which will take him to the end of the 2022-23 season. The 44-year-old won 221 caps for Leinster as a player and was captain of three Heineken Cup-winning squads before becoming head coach at the start of the 2015-16 season.

"Yeah, there are some big decisions that have got to be made. I've a young family and all the rest. Circumstances," said Cullen. "So that's very hypothetical. We're very focused on Ospreys at the moment. It's really about the here and now, this season."


Leinster are second in the table behind leaders Ulster and again go in for some changes, including the canny hooker Sean Cronin, who is on the bench and ready to spring into his 200th cap.

Outhalf-centre partnership

There will also be plenty of interest on how the outhalf-centre partnership can develop with brothers Ross and Harry Byrne starting. Ross holds the outhalf position with Harry playing at inside centre and Jamie Osborne outside him.

“Him [Harry] and Ross have an excellent relationship,” said Cullen. “Having that second ball player is something that we value so this week is another opportunity to see that. We’ll see how the game plays out.

“In terms of what Harry delivers, he gives great communication to Ross and the way the game is outside communication is so, so important, having somebody else with the ability to see space. It’s a little bit more deception for the defence that we face on the day so to have that second ball player I think is important.

“Jamie is developing physically. He’s a naturally big young man so he has still to develop strength and grow into his body. He moved to 15 last week after Jimmy O’Brien had pulled out, so where he ends up whether that’s 12, 13 or 15. . .

“But he’s a very good ball player for us as well and good kicking game. Left foot and Jimmy O’Brien is left foot as well just to give us that option.”

Ospreys arrive with a decent record of six wins from 10 games. They have an experienced midfield pairing in outhalf Stephen Myler and scrumhalf and captain Rhys Webb. International lock Bradley Davies also makes a return following injury.

Leinster: J O'Brien; J Larmour, J Osborne, H Byrne, D Kearney; R Byrne, L McGrath (capt); C Healy, J Tracy, M Ala'alatoa; R Molony, R Baird; M Moloney, S Penny, M Deegan. Replacements - Cronin, P Dooley (97), T Clarkson, J Dunne, R Ruddock, N McCarthy, R O'Loughlin, J Lowe.

Ospreys: D Evans, K Giles, M Collins, K Williams, L Morgan, S Myler, R Webb (capt), N Smith, S Parry, T Botha, B Davies, W Griffiths, E Roots, H Deaves, M Morris. Replacements -E Taione, R Jones, R Henry, L Ashley, D Lydiate, Reuben M Williams, G Anscombe, T Wheeler.

Referee: G Gnecchi (FIR).

Verdict: Leinster

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times