'Ospreys relishing big derby challenge'
JONATHAN Humphreys insists the Ospreys will relish their visit to the Scarlets' lair this evening (7.05).
A difficult encounter has been forecast for the Pro12 champions after their win-less start to the season.
But assistant coach Humphreys is adamant they will not be fazed by the journey across the Loughor Bridge to take on their unbeaten neighbours, who head the league after three rounds of matches.
Predicting the Ospreys will respond positively, he said: "We're only three games into the campaign, so I don't think it's a season-defining moment.
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"But Parc y Scarlets is a place our boys enjoy going to.
"It's a good stadium, with a good atmosphere and there'll be local rivalry, with lots of head to heads.
"I love these derbies and our players do as well.
"You feared that with the advent of professionalism and the move to regionalism these local rivalries might die a death, but they haven't."
In a departure from recent seasons, the Scarlets will win the asterisk count tonight, with 11 full internationals in their starting line-up compared with the Ospreys' nine.
A key selection for them in the battle for the South Wales Evening Post Cup sees Ken Owens get the nod over Matthew Rees at hooker.
Ashley Beck is ruled out for the Ospreys, with Tom Isaacs coming into midfield, while Kahn Fotuali'i is named at scrum-half and Alun Wyn Jones returns to skipper the side from lock.
Ryan Jones and Jonathan Thomas, both returning to fitness, are part of a bench that includes five internationals.
The Ospreys' spluttering start to the campaign has led to predictions that they could come badly unstuck, but Humphreys hasn't lost sleep on that score.
"I don't fear a hiding," he said.
"But the fact is the Scarlets are a dangerous side who are capable of punishing teams.
''That's something we don't want to happen to us.
"I guess if you looked at the first three games of the season you'd probably say we're underdogs. The Scarlets are going well and seem to be scoring some lovely tries, so I think you'd probably say they're favourites.
"But form goes out of the window in these matches."
The challenge for the Scarlets will be to stop the Ospreys knocking them out of their stride.
"A derby will always have an element of intensity and a bit of niggle," said Simon Easterby.
"That's fine but we have to understand what has been working well for us."
Adam Jones could be back from his knee injury to take the field for the Ospreys against Munster in Swansea a week tomorrow, while Beck is expected to have recovered from a pelvic problem for the date with the twice European champions.
But James King has been set a mid-October comeback date to return from the shoulder injury he suffered against Ulster.