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Dan Lydiate Insists Pool Of Death Can Pump Some Life Into Flagging Ospreys

Dan Lydiate insists the demands of a European pool of death can shock the Ospreys into life as they start their Heineken Champions campaign at home to Munster on Saturday.

Lydiate’s region have made a shocking start to their season – losing five of their opening six Guinness PRO14 fixtures. Head coach Allen Clarke admitted they were “at the bottom of the pit” after their embarrassing home defeat to lowly South African outfit the Southern Kings last weekend.

 But former Wales and British & Irish Lions flanker Lydiate, who will captain the side at the Liberty Stadium, insists they will get their act together for the visit of the two-time European champions in a pool that also includes Saracens and Racing 92.

“We aren’t happy with how we’ve started our season but we are confident we can get better,” said Lydiate.

“When you play against the best teams in Europe you automatically rise to the occasion both individually and collectively. We are confident that if we bring our best performance then we can be competitive.

“Munster are always a tough team to play against and they have such strength in depth in their squad. It will be a different team to the one we played in the PRO14 a few weeks ago. At the moment we aren’t putting in 80 minute performances and we are playing in fits and spurts. We’ve got a young group of players and looking further down the line this period could be invaluable for their development.

“People will say this pool is as bad as it comes but it’s probably as exciting as it comes as well. As a player you want to play against the best teams but there’s no better than what we’ve got in our pool.”

The region’s early season form has been partly due to the absence of 10 players to World Cup duty with a further eight players on the injury list. With Wales’ stars given a window of four to six weeks to get over their World Cup exertions, Clarke is still without the bulk of his first choice players although Nicky Smith, Bradley Davies and Aled Davies return to the bench.

Tom Williams comes in for Lesley Klim on the left wing and Ma’afu Fia takes over from Tom Botha at tight-head prop. The bench does look stronger, with the three Wales players backed by Gheorge Gajion, Sam Cross and the promising Kieran Williams.

Ifan Phillips shadows Scott Otten at hooker while James Hook covers the fly-half and full-back positions.

“Munster are coming pretty much fully loaded, but, for me personally, you want to play against the best opposition and the toughest teams to see where you’re at,” added Lydiate.

“The younger boys in the squad have a massive opportunity to play in probably the best club competition in world rugby.

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“It’s going to be a huge challenge against Munster but the boys need to embrace it and look forward to playing in these games.

“People will say this pool is as bad as it comes but it’s probably as exciting as it comes as well. As a player you want to play against the best teams but there’s no better than what we’ve got in our pool.

“We aren’t happy with how we’ve started our season but we are confident we can get better. At the moment we aren’t putting in 80 minute performances and we are playing in fits and spurts.

“We’ve got a young group of players and looking further down the line this period could be invaluable for their development.

“Munster is always a tough team to play against and they have such strength in depth in their squad. It will be a different team to the one we played in the PRO14 a few weeks ago.

“When you play against the best teams in Europe you automatically rise to the occasion both individually and collectively.”

Keith Earls starts on his first Munster appearance of the campaign after being named in the side for the Liberty Stadium.

There are five changes to the side that defeated Ulster in the Guinness PRO14 last week.

Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray, Jeremy Loughman and Tommy O’Donnell also coming into the starting XV.

Mike Haley starts at full-back with last week’s match-winner Andrew Conway and Earls on either flank.

Rory Scannell and Chris Farrell continue their centre partnership with Murray and Bleyendaal in the half-backs.

Loughman, Niall Scannell and John Ryan pack down in the front row with Loughman making his first Champions Cup start.

Jean Kleyn and Billy Holland start in the engine room with captain Peter O’Mahony, O’Donnell and CJ Stander completing the side.

Tadhg Beirne is named among the replacements and is in line to make his first Munster appearance of the season.

Ospreys: C Evans; Dirksen, Thomas-Wheeler, S Williams, T Williams; Price, Venter; R Jones, Otten, Fia, Orie, Ashley, Lydiate (capt), Cracknell, Morris.

Replacements: I Phillips, N Smith, Gajion, B Davies, Cross, A Davies, Hook, K Williams.

Munster: Haley; Conway, Farrell, R Scannell, Earls; Bleyendaal, C Murray; Loughman, N Scannell, J Ryan, Kleyn, Holland, O’Mahony (capt), O’Donnell, Stander.

Replacements: O’Byrne, J Cronin, Archer, Beirne, A Botha, Mathewson, Arnold, Goggin.

Referee: Karl Dickson (England)

Assistant referees: Ian Tempest (England), Paul Dix (England)

TMO: Stuart Terheege (England).

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