Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lee Byrne urges Ospreys to show their best in Magners showdown


LEE Byrne has urged the Ospreys to “do themselves justice” during tomorrow night’s intriguing inaugural Magners League Grand Final with Leinster in Dublin.

The Bridgend Athletic product was in a cautious mood as he addressed the 19,500 sell-out showdown at the RDS between some of union’s finest players.

He’ll go head-to-head with his Lions full-back rival of last year, Rob Kearney, while James Hook will be up against Brian O’Driscoll in the centre and Ryan Jones takes on Jamie Heaslip at No 8.

Throw in the likes of Shane Williams, Tommy Bowe, Mike Phillips, Jerry Collins, Marty Holah, Gordon D’Arcy, Shane Horgan, Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan and Shane Jennings, and you’ve got a real who’s who of stardust.

The winner of the shoot-out between last season’s Heineken Cup kings Leinster and the star-studded Ospreys will become the first team to be crowned Celtic champions for a third time.

Leinster haven’t been beaten at home – it’s being staged at their ground because they finished top of the league section – in the Magners for 18 months and Byrne admits the Ospreys face a tall order in over-coming them.

But he believes the self-belief generated during last month’s 20-16 defeat in Dublin, that came at the end of a gruelling seven days which had seen them play Biarritz in Spain in the Heineken and Ulster in Belfast in the league, will stand them in good stead.

“It was the end of a hard week, we’d played three games on the road and had the disappointment of Biarritz, but to get so close to Leinster in that game maybe surprised a few people,” said the 29-year-old.

“They’ve not lost at home in the Magners in about 18 months so we know it’s going to be tough, but they’ve got to lose some time and hopefully it’s going to be our time.”

Byrne was playing his cards close to his chest because the Ospreys, despite their squad forming the bulk of two Wales Six Nations Grand Slam winning teams, have got a poor record when it comes to the knockout stages of tournaments.

The only successes the Swansea-based Ospreys have had in knockout matches was smashing the Blues and Saracens – just a fortnight before losing to them in the Heineken – in Anglo-Welsh semi-finals at the Millennium Stadium, beating Leicester in one Twickenham final and accounting for Glasgow a couple of weeks ago in their Magners last-four match-up.

But the Ospreys have lost just one of their last six fixtures in all competitions with Wales full-back Byrne beaming: “We’ve put ourselves in a good position.

“We want to try to make sure we do ourselves justice on the day, and if we hit the standards we have been it could be a good night for us.”

Although he didn’t join the Ospreys until a year after the region’s first Celtic League success, Byrne will still be gunning for his own personal hat-trick having won the title with the Scarlets in 2004, as well being a part of the Ospreys 2007 title-winning team.

And, with the Ospreys having trailed Leinster by three points in the final table, unsurprisingly, Byrne is a fan of the knockout system.

“I’ve won it twice before, but it’s a bit different this year; the play-offs have added a twist to it,” he said.

“This is the way it is now. We’ve been on a good run to move up the table towards the end of the season and it means we are in with a chance of winning it.”

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