It says as much about the quality of last week’s performance against Northampton as it does about the changing dynamic within Ospreys squad that Steve Tandy has opted to keep Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar on the bench for Sunday’s return fixture.
With youngsters Sam Davies and Tom Habberfield pulling the strings imperiously in an opening 60-minute display which ultimately ended Northampton’s European Champions Cup hopes and Jim Mallinder’s 10-year tenure at the club, director of rugby Tandy has seen no reason to change things, despite having two Lions half backs fit for selection again.
With Webb set to leave for Toulon in the summer and Biggar on his way to Sunday’s opponents Northampton, Tandy’s desire to keep one eye on the future was made considerably easier by Davies and Habberfield’s classy contributions last week.
With the peerless Dan Evans named again at full back and Justin Tipuric returning to the openside flank, Ospreys will kick off at the Liberty Stadium supremely confident of recording a second successive victory over the troubled east midlands club after reinvigorating their Pool 2 hopes with last week’s bonus-point win.
Biggar and Webb must settle for supporting roles with the former surely having mixed feeling about his decision to move to Northampton next season following Mallinder’s departure during the week.
Biggar is said to have been shocked by the news of Mallinder’s sacking after agreeing to sign a deal believed to be worth more than £650,000 largely at the insistence of the 51-year-old, but has given Saints chief executive Mark Dorbon assurances about his commitment to the club.
Dorbon said this week he received a phone call from Biggar - who is believed to have left some Ospreys staff unimpressed by his decision to accept a role as a television pundit for last Saturday’s game – when the Wales and British & Irish Lions fly half reiterated his desire to play for the club.
Interim Northampton head coach Alan Dickens, handed the reigns ahead of long-serving forwards coach Dorian West in a move which Darbon insisted does not indicate the former Saints hooker is also inevitably on his way out of the Franklins Gardens exit, has made five changes from the side beaten 43-32 last weekend.
It was the club’s eighth successive defeat in major competitions and left the Saints board with little choice but to wield the axe in a bid to avoid a potentially disastrous relegation dogfight.
Former Bath director of rugby Mike Ford is believed to be in contention to take over on an interim basis although in the short term Saints must concentrate on rediscovering the winning formula which saw them top the Aviva Premiership in September but has completely deserted them in recent weeks.
Ben Foden captains Saints from the left wing with Dylan Hartley missing through illness for a game which sees Northampton playing only for pride just four games into yet another failed European campaign.
Ospreys hopes remain very much alive.
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