Preview: Ulster v Zebre

Date published: March 3 2016

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Director of Rugby, Les Kiss, has named his Ulster matchday squad for Friday's PRO12 match against Zebre.

There are four changes to the starting team that faced Cardiff Blues on Sunday afternoon, one of which is Rob Herring, who returns to the side as captain.

Herring is joined in the front row by Kyle McCall at loosehead prop and Ricky Lutton at tighthead.

The rest of the pack is unchanged, with Peter Browne and Franco van der Merwe paired in the second row and Robbie Diack, Chris Henry and Nick Williams selected in the loose forward positions.

Rory Scholes comes into the backline and is named on the right wing, with Craig Gilroy moving to full-back and Jacob Stockdale retained on the left flank.

With Sammy Arnold unavailable due to a hamstring injury, Stuart Olding will switch from full-back to inside centre. He will be joined in midfield by Luke Marshall, who signed a contract extension with the province earlier this week.

Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson will continue their-half back partnership.

Paul Marshall has overcome a virus and has been selected on the bench, while Sam Windsor and Darren Cave will also provide backline cover. John Andrew, Callum Black, Andy Warwick, Roger Wilson and Sean Reidy are the forward replacements.

Meanwhile, Zebre travel to Ireland hit hard without a number of players away with Italy and due to injuries.

Edoardo Padovani returns from international duty to wear the number ten shirt while Tommaso Castello and Guilio Bisegni make up the midfield.

Andrea De Marchi makes his 70th appearance for the club while Marco Bortolami captains the side from the second row.

Form: Ulster have slipped to successive defeats, to Scarlets and Cardiff Blues but have not lost three in a row in the same season in the PRO12 since 2011/12. The Ulstermen have lost twice in Belfast this season and have not lost three at home in an entire PRO12 campaign since 2009/10. Zebre have slipped to five straight defeats since their victory at Worcester in the Challenge Cup on January 16. Zebre's only victory outside of Italy in the PRO12 came when they visited Cardiff Blues in September 2013. The two sides have met on six previous occasions with Zebre's only victory being in their most recent encounter at Parma in September 2014.

The teams: 

Ulster: 15 Craig Gilroy, 14 Rory Scholes, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Pete Browne, 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 Rob Herring (c), 1 Kyle McCall 
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Callum Black, 18 Andrew Warwick, 19 Roger Wilson, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Sam Windsor, 23 Darren Cave

Zebre: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Giulio Toniolatti, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Kayle Van Zyl, 10 Edoardo Padovani, 9 Fabio Semenzato, 8 Federico Ruzza, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Emiliano Caffini, 5 Marco Bortolami (c), 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea De Marchi
Replacements: 
16 Emiliano Coria, 17 Guillermo Roan, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Filippo Cristiano, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Ian McKinley, 23 Ulrich Beyers

Date: Friday, March 4
Venue: Ravenhill
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Paul Haycock (Ireland), Kevin Beggs (Ireland)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (IRFU)

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