Ospreys’ face Clermont in a crucial European Champions Cup clash on Friday: 19:45 kick-off
Dan Lydiate has failed to recover from a neck injury in time for the Welsh Region
Captain Alun Wyn Jones returns to the Ospreys starting line-up
Wales centre Jonathan Davies starts for Clermont
Scott Baldwin makes his 100th Ospreys appearance in this Friday’s crucial European Champions Cup clash with Clermont Auvergne.
Rising star Sam Underhill makes his European Cup debut while Ma’afu Fia and Owen Watkin will make their European Cup debuts if they come off the bench.
Captain Alun Wyn Jones returns to the Ospreys starting line-up, as do number eight James King, wing Eli Walker and centre Josh Matavesi.
Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy said: “With two rounds to play, not only are we still in contention, but our destiny is very much in our own hands and that is all any team can ask for at this stage. We know that we’ve got a huge challenge in front of us over the next two weekends but we are definitely looking forward.
“It’s a really exciting time, and this is probably the biggest game we’ve had at the Liberty for four or five years. We all know what Clermont are about and the quality they have right through their squad but going head to head with a team that were French and European runners-up last season is something to whet the appetite and it should be a fantastic occasion for supporters, players and coaches to enjoy on Friday night.
Meanwhile, France international Scott Spedding takes over from Nick Abendanon at full-back for Clermont.
The rest of Clermont’s backline remains unchanged, with Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez the half-back pairing once again.
Vito Kolelishvili moves to seven, with Damien Chouly switching to six to accommodate the return of Fritz Lee at number eight. Loïc Jacquet replaces Paul Jedrasiak with Benjamin Kayser a new face at hooker for les Jaunards.
This will be the sixth meeting between the clubs in Europe’s top flight with Clermont holding the advantage to date with three wins
All five of the previous meetings have seen the home side emerge victorious
Ospreys have lost just one of their 14 home matches against French opposition. That defeat came in their first fixture against Toulouse in 2004 (W11, D2)
Ospreys have won twice this season in the Champions Cup – the last time they won three pool games was in 2010/11
Despite losing at Stade Marcel-Michelin in Round 2, Ospreys scored 29 points (including two bonus points) equalling their highest total against a Top 14 club in the Champions Cup
Clermont have conceded 10 or fewer points in five of their last eight fixtures in the Champions Cup.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ospreys: Dan Biggar
Ospreys fly-half Biggar has become one of the finest number 10s in Europe right now but he will be looking to get his goalkicking back on song ahead of the upcoming Six Nations. This ‘crucial’ clash will give him the chance to rediscover his form on the biggest stage.
Clermont: Camille Lopez
France international Camille Lopez has been fantastic for Clermont since signing from Perpignan in 2014. His goalkicking, try-scoring and safe hands will make him a crucial part of the Top 14 sides game-plan when they take on the Welsh Region on Friday.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Eli Walker, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 James King, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Underhill, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Paul James
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Tom Habberfield, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Owen Watkin
Clermont: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 David Strettle, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Vito Kolelishvili, 6 Damien Chouly, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Loïc Jacquet, 3 Daniel Kotze, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Raphael Chaume.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Michael Simutoga, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Camille Gerondeau, 21 Ludovic Radoslavjevic, 22 Brock James, 23 Albert Vulivuli
Date: Friday, January 15
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce (England), Peter Allan (England)
TMO: Sean Davey (England)