Preview: Munster v Zebre

Date published: March 24 2016

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Munster head coach Anthony Foley has made no less than nine changes for Friday's PRO12 clash against Zebre at Thomond Park.

Returning internationals Donnacha Ryan, Tommy O'Donnell, Keith Earls and Simon Zebo all start with Conor Murray and CJ Stander named amongst the replacements.

In naming an all-Irish starting XV, the players are all products of the Greencore Munster Rugby Academy.

In an all-new front row, Dave Kilcoyne and Stephen Archer start on either side of Niall Scannell with Archer making his first start since returning from a long-term neck injury.

Donnacha Ryan comes into the second row and will make his 100th league appearance when partnering Billy Holland who again captains the side.

O'Donnell is the one personnel change in the back row with Dave O'Callaghan and Jack O'Donoghue reverting to blindside and number eight respectively.

Changes in the half-backs see Tomás O'Leary and Johnny Holland start alongside each other for the first time in what will be Holland's first inclusion in the starting line-up since returning from a long-term hamstring injury.

A new starting partnership is also seen in the midfield with the returning Earls joining Rory Scannell while the return of Zebo at full-back is the final change with Ronan O'Mahony and Darren Sweetnam again completing the back-three.

Francis Saili sustained a knock to the shoulder in training this week, ruling him out of contention. The centre is expected to return to training next week.

Meanwhile, compared to the last game three weeks ago, the Zebre coaching staff can recall nine Italian internationals players to take part in the match against the Red Army.

Four players also have recovered from their respective injuries and will be on the team list: forwards Jean Cook and Bruno Postiglioni and backs Tommaso Boni and Matteo Pratichetti.

In addition to the long list of 14 injured players, three remain in Parma to be rested – two internationals Andrea Lovotti and Gonzalo Garcia and also lock Marco Bortolami, who has captained the side in the last seven games.

Form: Munster slipped up 28-37 at Cardiff Blues in the rearranged Round 12 game last Friday, the first time they had failed to tally a league point from a PRO12 game in 2016. The Munstermen beat Dragons 26-5 at Thomond Park in Round 17 to end a three-game home losing run in the competition. Zebre have lost their last five PRO12 encounters and have beaten a province from Ireland or Northern Ireland just once before – 13-6 over Ulster in Parma in September 2014. The two sides have met on seven previous occasions with Munster winning them all.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Ronan O'Mahony, 10 Johnny Holland, 9 Tomás O'Leary, 8 Jack O'Donoghue, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Dave O'Callaghan, 5 Billy Holland (c), 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 James Cronin, 18 Mario Sagario, 19 Dave Foley, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 David Johnston

Zebre: 15 Kayle Van Zyl, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Giulio Toniolatti, 10 Kelly Haimona, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Johan Meyer, 7 Federico Ruzza, 6 Jean Cook, 5 Valerio Bernabò, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys (c), 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Guillermo Roan
Replacements: 
16 Bruno Postiglioni, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Emiliano Caffini, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Ulrich Beyers, 23 Matteo Pratichetti

Date: Friday, March 25
Venue: Thomond Park
Kick-off: 19:00 GMT
Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson (Ireland), Helen O’Reilly (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)

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