Preview: Zebre v Dragons

Date published: May 6 2016

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Marco Bortolami will play the final game of his career when he captains Zebre against the Dragons in Parma this weekend.

Bortolami has 66 appearances for Zebre including 49 as captain, and has also captained Italy 40 times and amassed 112 caps, the third most of all time.

In comparison to last weekend in Glasgow, head coach Gianluca Guidi side can call on three returnees to the starting line-up: centre Matteo Pratichetti, wing Leonardo Sarto and flanker Johan Meyer who have recovered from their injuries.

There's also the return into the 23 of former All Blacks centurion Muliaina, who will start from the bench in his last appearance in a Zebre jersey before his move to PRO Rugby with San Francisco.

Zebre currently lie one league point below Treviso and must at least equal their opponents tally of points after this round of games to secure the Italian spot in the Champions Cup next season, however Zebre have not won in the PRO12 since beating Treviso on 3 January.

Meanwhile, Newport Gwent Dragons head coach Kingsley Jones has made seven changes to the starting line up from last weekend.

Jones gives the likes of Rhys Buckley, Lloyd Fairbrother, Matthew Screech, James Thomas, James Benjamin and Ed Jackson the chance to impress whilst Wales U20s star Harrison Keddie will make his professional debut off the bench.

Head coach Jones commented: "These players in the team are the ones who have been knocking on my door for an opportunity and they have been told, this is their chance.

"We really think this is the right group to get us a win and the bench will be very important with the likes of Rynard Landman, Elliot Dee and Sarel Pretorius."

Full-back Geraint Rhys Jones comes off the bench and into the starting XV as he lines up alongside wings Adam Hughes and Hallam Amos in the back three. The centre partnership sees no changes made as Jack Dixon and Adam Warren are given the nod. The half-backs also remain unchanged as fly-half Angus O’Brien and scrum-half Charlie Davies are included.

The front row has two changes made to it as hooker Buckley starts alongside props Phil Price and Fairbrother. The second row has one change made to it as Screech replaces Rynard Landman to join tomorrows skipper Nick Crosswell. The back row is all change as flankers Benjamin and Thomas are named alongside number eight Jackson. 

The replacements bench sees Elliot Dee, Shaun Knight, Rynard Landman, Harrison Keddie and Carl Meyer join Luke Garrett, Sarel Pretorius and Dorian Jones.

Form: Newport Gwent Dragons only victory in their last 11 matches in all tournaments was 23-21 at Gloucester in the quarter-final of the Challenge Cup on 9 April. Zebre's only victory in their seven previous contests with Dragons was 23-17 in Parma in round 16 last season.

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Kayle Van Zyl, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Filippo Cristiano, 6 Johan Meyer, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys (c), 3 Guillermo Roan, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 
16 Bruno Postiglioni, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Kelly Haimona, 23 Mils Muliaina

Dragons: 15 Geraint Rhys Jones, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Angus O’Brien, 9 Charlie Davies, 8 Ed Jackson, 7 James Thomas, 6 James Benjamin, 5 Nick Crosswell (c), 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Rhys Buckley, 1 Phil Price
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Luke Garrett, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Rynard Landman, 20 Harrison Keddie, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Dorian Jones, 23 Carl Meyer

Date: Saturday, May 7
Kick-off: 16:00 local (15:00 BST, 14:00 GMT)
Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Elia Rizzo (Italy), Simone Boaretto (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Marrama (Italy)

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