Both the Ospreys and Ulster go into this game off the back of three successive victories in the RaboDirect Pro12. Ulster successfully and impressively disposed of the Cardiff Blues last time out whilst the Ospreys secured a narrow victory away to Benetton Treviso.
However despite their strong start Ospreys captain Dan Biggar is fully aware of the challenge that awaits his side “We know that we’ll have to be on top of our game” and “They are coming here full of confidence with a lot of good players in their squad, and on the back of a very good win against the Blues last week.”
Indeed Ospreys Director of Coaching, Scott Johnson, admitted his side underperformed in Italy last week and was happy with the result but not the performance. What is certain is they will need an exceptional performance at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday to overcome Brian McLaughlin’s men.
McLaughlin has been impressed with his charges this term and is particularly enamoured with the steely determination shown in the absence of so many Rugby World Cup stars “I’m exceptionally happy. Cardiff are one of the better teams in the competition and considering they scored 8 tries in their first two games, for us to shut them out is a great achievement. It was a great defensive effort.”
McLaughlin was also delighted with debutant Jared Payne who had a solid debut and will no doubt look for more of the same from the prodigious New Zealander in Swansea.
Aside from their World Cup induced absentees Ulster may be without Ian Humphreys (shoulder) and Darren Cave (leg) who will have scans on knocks picked up en route to victory over Cardiff. The Ospreys are also without a sizeable World Cup contingent, not least the creative and pacy threesome of James Hook, Shane Williams and Irishman Tommy Bowe, but have no major injury concerns for this one.
A combative and entertaining game awaits with Ulster looking to make amends for a one point loss in the corresponding fixture last season. McLaughlin’s men have been little short of excellent this campaign and may just maintain that one hundred per cent record.