Hibbard and Henson in for Ospreys

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The Independent Online

The Wales hooker Richard Hibbard will make his first appearance of the season for the Ospreys today, following minor shoulder surgery in the summer. He could be joined on the field by Gavin Henson (below), who has not played since damaging ankle ligaments in April. The Wales centre is among the Welsh side's replacements for the match against Ulster at the Liberty Stadium this evening.

"After difficult trips to Glasgow and Leinster we're looking forward to coming back to the nest to play Ulster, which starts off a run of four matches out of five at home over the next month, in stark contrast to the opening weeks of the season that saw us face three way fixtures in our first four," said the Ospreys head coach, Sean Holley.

"We suffered our first defeat of the season at the hands of Leinster last Friday [19-13 at the Royal Dublin Showground], and although we are obviously disappointed with the result, we have taken a lot of positives from what was a strong performance.

"We dominated for long periods and there were some very strong aspects to our game, but we failed to turn our possession and territory into the points we deserved. It was very pleasing that we kept on going until the final whistle and didn't drop our heads as the bonus point we secured right at the death could prove important later in the season."

Of today's opponents, Holley said: "Ulster are a very difficult team, they always provide a real physical challenge up front, they are well organised and abrasive, and take the breakdown and tackle area to its limits. They've also got plenty of pace in the back three and they have plenty of experience of how to play against us.

"We've worked hard on correcting the areas where we fell short against Leinster and we'll be looking to impose our game on the opposition. We are confident and extremely tight as a group at the moment and are able once again to select a strong team with fresh legs and players with some points to prove and places to play for. Having spent the last few weeks on the road, and in particular after last weekend's game in Dublin where there was a 15,000 crowd, we are all hoping that there will be a good crowd at the Liberty Stadium to welcome us back."

Munster's new coach, Tony McGahan, has made five changes from the side that started against Cardiff Blues last time out for the league leaders' match against Leinster at the RDS tomorrow night.

Keith Earls takes over from Denis Hurley at full-back and Tomas O'Leary is preferred to Peter Stringer at scrum-half. Up front, Marcus Horan returns at loose-head in place of Tony Buckley, Donncha O'Callaghan partners his captain, Paul O'Connell, in the second row and David Wallace takes the No 7 jersey from Niall Ronan, who scored two tries in the 28-20 victory over the Blues.

For Leinster, the captain, Leo Cullen, partners Malcolm O'Kelly in the second row with one new signing, the Wallaby flanker Rocky Elsom, in the back row, with Shane Jennings and Jamie Heaslip. Another new boy, the Springbok prop C J van der Linde, is at tight-head.

In the backs, the former Wallaby Chris Whitaker partners Jonathan Sexton at half-back and Shane Horgan is on the right wing. Luke Fitzgerald is on the left and Girvan Dempsey is at full-back.

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