Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac has named his side to take on Zebre at Parc y Scarlets on Friday evening.
Three changes have been made to the side that started against Glasgow last weekend with Steff Hughes, who will be celebrating his 23rd birthday tomorrow, coming in to partner captain Hadleigh Parkes in the centre, Emyr Phillips at hooker and Tadhg Beirne replacing the injured Lewis Rawlins in the second row.
Steff Evans and Aled Davies have been released from the Welsh squad and have been named on the replacements bench for the round 15 clash.
Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac said; “We play three of the top four in this period; it’s a big period for us if we want to make the top four.”
Looking ahead to Friday’s clash he said; “It’s a lot harder chasing the group so we wanted to get into that top four and maintain that position for as long as we can. If not improve up the ladder. It was a very, very important game for both sides and we managed to come out on top. It was a very good effort.
“We need to back that up with a good performance at home. We need to get the same intensity that we had away to Glasgow here at home against Zebre.
“We haven’t been able to achieve our goals against them two years in a row. That’s in the back of our minds. It wasn’t an 80-minute performance out in Zebre, we secured the five points but we allowed them to score 24 aswell. It’s an interesting challenge for us.
“Maximum points are on offer every week and every week we try and get maximum points, this week is no different.
“The challenge for us is getting the level of intensity we have against a top four side in this performance, putting pressure on ourselves to front up and make sure we mentally front up. We need to make sure we’re mentally and physically on the money.”
Zebre have wrung the changes for their clash with Scarlets.
They have shuffled the centres with Tommaso Boni shifting from outside centre to inside centre and Giulio Bisegni replacing Matteo Pratichetti in the 13 jersey. The only other change in the backline Marcello Violi starting at scrum-half in place of Guglielmo Palazzani who drops out of the squad completely.
In the back-row, Federico Ruzza keeps his place at number eight and will have Oliviero Fabiani and Derick Minnie beside him on the sides of the scrum.
There is a complete overhaul in the tight five. In the second-row the combination Gideon Koegelenberg and Joshua Furno replace Valerio Bernabò and Quintin Geldenhuys with the former shifting to the bench.
In the front-three Pietro Ceccarelli will start at tighthead, with Andrea De Marchi at loosehead and Tommaso D’Apice at hooker.
Form: Scarlets have lost just once in the last eleven rounds of PRO12 play: 9-19 at Ospreys on 27 December. The Welshmen have won their last six home games in the Championship since Munster defeated them at Parc y Scarlets in round 1 this season. Zebre have lost their last six PRO12 matches since beating Edinburgh at Murrayfield on 28 October. The Italian’s only previous success in Wales came when they beat Cardiff Blues at Cardiff Arms Park in September 2013. Scarlets have never lost in nine previous encounters with Zebre although the two teams did draw 16-all in Parma in October 2013.
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Tom Williams, 13 Steff Hughes, 12 Hadleigh Parkes(c), 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Will Boyde 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Tom Price, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Wyn Jones,
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Luke Garrett, 18 Nicky Thomas, 19 Tom Phillips, 20 Josh Macleod, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Gareth Owen, 23 Steff Evans
Zebre: 15 Kurt Baker, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Thomas Boni, 11 Lloys Greeff, 10 Serafin Bordoli, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Federico Ruzza, 7 Oliviero Fabiani, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Gideon Koegelenberg, 4 Joshua Furno, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Tommaso D’Apice, 1 Andrea De Marchi(c)
Replacements: 16 Bruno Postiglioni, 17 Guillermo Roan, 18 Bartholomeus Le Roux, 19 Valerio Bernabo, 20 Dario Zanetti, 21 William Palazzani, 22 Matteo Pratichetti, 23 Dion Berryman
Date: Friday, February 17
Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: Andy Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Simon Mills (Wales)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)