Preview: Ospreys v Zebre

Date published: November 6 2015

Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy has made five changes, including a positional switch, to his starting line-up for Saturday's PRO12 clash with Zebre at the Liberty Stadium.

Amongst the backs there are two changes. Dafydd Howells takes over from Tom Grabham on the right wing while Jonathan Spratt replaces Ben John at outside centre.

In the forwards, Dan Baker comes in to the run-on side at number eight where he takes over from James King who shifts to the blindside flank. The other changes sees skipper Alun Wyn Jones making a welcome return to the second row in place of Rory Thornton while Scott Baldwin is preferred to Sam Parry at hooker.

After last weekend's loss to Glasgow, Tandy expects a much improved performance from his charges.

"There's no two ways about it, this weekend has to be where we start performing like an Ospreys team.

"We haven't been at the level expected so far this season and the PRO12 table tells its own story. 

"It's disappointing but we won't dwell on the last few weeks, we are looking forward and looking at how we can start climbing the table. 

"In order to do that, we need to go up several levels from where we have been so far this season, particularly with this game starting off a busy period of big games.
"The appetite and the desire is there among the squad and the coaches, the attitude is good, and everybody is pulling together to get us out of the position we are in. 

"Our internationals have enjoyed another week in our environment and we've got one or two coming off the injury list so things are starting to look a bit brighter, but that doesn't mean it's going to be easy the next few weeks.
"Zebre are coming here off the back of two very good wins over Edinburgh and the Blues and will no doubt fancy their chances so we'll have to be on our game. 

"We have to cut out the unnecessary mistakes that have been costing us, we have to be clinical and accurate, and everybody needs to not just know their roles but keep calm under pressure and stick to what we've practiced all week. 

"Those are the key ingredients for an improved performance which is what we need, not only to get the right performance on Saturday but to start building momentum and confidence."

Meanwhile, Zebre have made two changes to their run-on side after last weekend's win over Cardiff blues.

In the backline, Guglielmo Palazzani takes over from Dion Berryman at full-back and up front, Jacopo Sarto replaces Jean Cook on the blindside flank.

Form: Ospreys’ solitary victory in the last seven rounds of PRO12 play was 25-22 in Treviso in Round Four. Ospreys have lost their last two matches at Liberty Stadium but have never lost three in succession at the venue. Zebre achieved a first ever five point haul in beating Cardiff Blues in Parma on Saturday. It was their second successive win in the PRO12, they have never achieved three wins in a row. They sit in ninth place in the table – their highest ever position. The two sides have met on six previous occasions with Zebre’s only victory being 30-27 in Parma in May 2014 although two of their defeats have been by the narrowest possible margin. 

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Dafydd Howells, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Eli Walker, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 James King, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18  Cai Griffiths, 19 Olly Cracknell, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Tom Habberfield, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Ben John.

Zebre: 15 Guglielmo Palazzani, 14 Kayle Van Zyl, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Jacopo Sarto, 5 George Biagi (c) 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Emiliano Caffini, 21 Marcello Violi, 22 Michele Visentin, 23 Edoardo Padovani.

Date: Saturday, November 7
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Referee: Gary Conway (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Sean Brickell (Wales), Greg Morgan (Wales)
TMO: Jeff Mark (Wales)