Preview: Zebre v Edinburgh

Date published: December 30 2016

Zebre Head Coach Gianluca Guidi has made three changes to his team for their match against Edinburgh in the PRO12 this weekend.

Former All Blacks Sevens captain Kurt Baker, who has recovered from long term injury, returns to the side. The New Zealander will make his Italian debut after playing only the first two games of the PRO12 in Wales back in September.

All three changes are in the backs with Samoan international Faialaga Afamasaga selected for the first time along with Italian international Tommaso Boni at centre.

Acting Edinburgh Head Coach Duncan Hodge has made six changes to his starting side to face Zebre at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi on Saturday.

The personnel changes are split evenly between the forwards and backs, with three amends being made to the respective divisions. The only change to the back-three is on the wing where Will Helu starts, while Junior Rasolea is named at inside centre.

Sean Kennedy – who picked up his 50th Edinburgh cap when he came off the bench in Monday's game against Glasgow – starts at scrum-half in the final change to the back-line.

In the front-row, Allan Dell replaces Alasdair Dickinson in the loosehead berth, while Fraser McKenzie comes in to pack down at lock. The final change in the starting side comes in the back-row where Jamie Ritchie is named on the openside flank.

Hodge said: "It's been a tight turnaround from the Glasgow game, but the players have refocused quickly on the task at hand, which is a tough away clash with Zebre.

"They're a physical outfit and always raise their game in front of their home crowd, so there's no doubt we're in for an challenging encounter in Parma. There's a bit of rotation in the starting side, but we're fully confident that this team can take on Zebre in all areas of the game."

Blair Kinghorn – who recently re-signed with the club on two-year deal – retains the starting full-back spot, with Damien Hoyland remaining on the right-wing and Helu completing the back-three.

Chris Dean continues at outside centre and will partner Rasolea in midfield. Ross Ford captains the side from hooker and is joined in the front-row by Simon Berghan and the incoming Dell, while the incumbent Ben Toolis partners McKenzie in the second-row.

The newly re-signed Magnus Bradbury remains on the blindside flank, with Ritchie donning the number seven shirt and Cornell Du Preez at number eight.

Form: Zebre rugby have lost their last three PRO12 fixtures since beating Edinburgh at Murrayfield in round Seven. The Italians have not won at home in the Championship this season, their most recent victory at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi was against Newport Gwent Dragons in May. Edinburgh are one of only two sides who have yet to pick up a single league point on their travels this season – the other being Treviso. The Scotsmen’s most recent win in the Championship was over Ulster at Murrayfield in round Eight. Four of Zebre’s fourteen PRO12 victories have been against Edinburgh whilst the only other side they have achieved a league double over was Treviso in season 2015/16.

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Kurt Baker, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Faialaga Afamasaga, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 George Biagi (c), 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Tommaso D'Apice, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Guillermo Roan, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Matteo Pratichetti, 23 Mattia Bellini

Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Chris Dean, 12 Junior Rasolea, 11 Will Helu, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Sean Kennedy, 8 Cornell Du Preez, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Ben Toolis, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Dell
Replacements: 16 Neil Cochrane, 17 Jack Cosgrove, 18 Murray McCallum, 19 Lewis Carmichael, 20 Viliame Mata, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Glenn Bryce

Date: Saturday, December 31
Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi,
Time: 12:00 Local (11:00 GMT)
Referee: Gary Conway
Assistant Referees: Matteo Liperini, Filippo Bertelli
TMO: Leo Colgan