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An Tarbh
05-09-08, 06:04 PM
Connacht v Ospreys

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Tommy Bowe will start ahead of Wales sensation Shane Williams in the Ospreys Magners League opener at Connacht.

The Irish winger has pipped Grand Slam hero Williams to make his debut in Sean Holley's first Ospreys squad.

Holley also insists the Ospreys will cope without superstar scrum-halves Mike Phillips, who is injured, and the departed Justin Marshall.

Teenage scrum-half Rhys Webb has been chosen ahead of rookie Rhodri Wells while Alun Wyn Jones does not start.

"I'm pleased with both nines," said head coach Holley.

"Rhys has been thrust to the foreground and has coped, Rhodri has matured well over the last few years and was one of the Premiership's best last year."

Meanwhile new Connacht captain John Muldoon will win his 100th cap when he leads the side out for the first time.

Coach Michael Bradley has made one change to the side from that which played Queensland Reds in the final pre-season game.

John Hearty comes into the side on the left wing as Connacht bid to continue theie proud record of having won their opening match every year since the competition began in 2001.

Captain Muldoon will become the eleventh player to reach the century milestone of caps for Connacht while Brett Wilkinson, now beginning his third season with the club, will be making his 50th appearance for Connacht.

Connacht will be attempting to continue their record of having won every match on the opening the day of the Magners League season, the only side to have achieved that feat.

The Ospreys are thought to be close to securing the move of scrum-half Jamie Nutbrown from New Zealand, while Phillips is on target for an early October return after undergoing surgery to repair damage to his knee ligaments.

Gavin Henson should be back at about the same time after an operation on his ankle ligaments, while Ben Lewis (knee) is expected to return in November.

Richard Hibbard (shoulder) and Lyndon Bateman (back) are expected to miss the Connacht game.

Tom Smith (thigh) and Daniel Biggar (shoulder) are likely to be fit for consideration for the trip to last year's bottom league club, but Gareth Owen (leg) is a doubt.

The Ospreys lost 24-20 in Galway last season as they failed to win a single league game away from home, but defeated Connacht 37-7 at the Liberty Stadium.

Connacht: Fionn Carr; Liam Bibo, Gavin Duffy, Keith Matthews, John Hearty; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Robbie Morris; Michael McCarthy, Andrew Farley; John Muldoon (capt), Ray Ofisa, Colm Rigney.
Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Ronan Loughney, Andrew Browne, Michael Swift, Kieran Campbell, Troy Nathan, Aidan Wynne.

Ospreys: Lee Byrne; Nikki Walker, Sonny Parker; Andrew Bishop, Tommy Bowe; James Hook, Rhys Webb; Paul James, Huw Bennett, Cai Griffiths, Ian Gough, Ian Evans, Andy Lloyd, Marty Holah, Ryan Jones (capt).
Replacements: Duncan Jones, Ed Shervington, Alun Wyn Jones, Filo Tiatia, Rhodri Wells, Gareth Owen, Shane Williams.

Referee: Neil Paterson (SRU)

BBC Sport (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/rugby_union/my_club/connacht/7589196.stm)