Preview: Ulster v Zebre

Date published: November 24 2016

Chris Henry will make his first appearance of the season for Ulster on Friday night after being named in Les Kiss' starting XV for the game against Zebre.

Chris Henry will make his first appearance of the season for Ulster on Friday night after being named in Les Kiss' starting XV for the game against Zebre (Kingspan Stadium, 7.35pm).
The PRO12 Round 9 tie will also see Louis Ludik return from injury to don the number 13 jersey, while Ireland backs Luke Marshall and Craig Gilroy will rejoin the squad from international duty.
Marshall and Ludik are paired together in midfield, with Brett Herron and Ruan Pienaar continuing in the half-back positions. Jacob Stockdale, who made an impressive try-scoring impact against Edinburgh three weeks ago, is included in an exciting back three combination that will feature the experienced Tommy Bowe and Charles Piutau.
Henry, who will earn his 151st Ulster cap, is named in a combative back row alongside Clive Ross and Sean Reidy, with the latter packing down at number eight.
Pete Browne and Franco van der Merwe will reignite their lock partnership, while skipper Rob Herring will be joined by Kyle McCall and Wiehahn Herbst in the front row.
Gilroy, Rob Lyttle and Paul Marshall will offer no shortage of pace if called upon from the replacements bench. The front row cover will be provided by John Andrew, Callum Black and Andy Warwick, with Dan Tuohy and Robbie Diack, who boast 318 Ulster caps between them, also included in the match day squad.

Zebre are without 12 internationals capped by the Italian national team ahead of Saturday's match against Tonga in Padua.
For this reason, the coaching staff have called six permit players who plays for clubs taking part in the main Italian league Excellence.

Three of them, Simone Balocchi, Alberto Chiesa and Giovanni Pettinelli, have been included in the starting line-up.

Back in the squad for the match against Ulster are several players who recovered from their injuries since the last official game in Parma against Leinster.

There is a first seasonal selection for Italian international Mattia Bellini, who will start at the left wing along with full-back Dion Berryman.

In the second row, Gideon Koegelenberg and Valerio Bernabò are available for selection after missing the last three games.

Form: Ulster Rugby’s only victory in their last five matches in all tournaments was 19-18 at home to Exeter in the European Champions Cup on 22 October. The Ulstermen’s single point defeat to Munster in their most recent encounter at Kingspan Stadium ended a seven game winning run at the venue. Zebre’s only victory so far this season was 19-14 against Edinburgh at Murrayfield in round 7 of the PRO12. Zebre have never won successive away games in the history of the tournament and have yet to record a victory when visiting an Irish province. Ulster’s only defeat to Zebre in eight previous meetings was 6-13 in Parma in September 2014. 

Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Brett Herron, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Sean Reidy, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Clive Ross, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Pete Browne, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring (c), 1 Kyle McCall
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Callum Black, 18 Andy Warwick, 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Robbie Diack, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Craig Gilroy, 23 Rob Lyttle

Zebre: 15 Dion Berryman, 14 Simone Balocchi, 13 Matteo Pratichetti, 12 Tommaso Castello (c), 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Alberto Chiesa, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Derick Minnie, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Bruno Postiglioni
Replacements: 16 Luhandre Luus, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Guillermo Roan, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 20 Giovanni Licata, 21 Carlo Engelbrecht, 22 Maicol Azzolini, 23 Lloyd Greeff

Date: Friday, November 25 
Venue: Kingspan Stadium
Time: 19:35 local (19:35 GMT) 
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Davies (Wales), Helen O’Reilly (Ireland)
TMO: Paul Adams (Wales)