Preview: Zebre v Munster

Date published: January 29 2016

The Zebre coaching staff has announced the line-up for the match at the Stadio Lanfranchi in Parma between the Italian side and Munster.

It has been a busy week of work for coach Gianluca Guidi and his staff in order to provide stability to a squad that has had to cope with the absence of the thirteen internationals called up by Italy for the upcoming Six Nations 2016, and also hit by some late injuries.

Compared to last weekend's match, Zebre welcome back some players including winger Michele Visentin and back-rower Emiliano Caffini for their first starts of the season for the two former national academy Ivan Francescato of the Italian rugby union.

Flanker Filippo Cristiano and former All Black Mils Muliaina will both be on the bench.

Zebre Rugby team manager Andrea De Rossi on Saturday's game: "We need another test of character to deal with Munster: an experienced team and thrunners-up of last season's PRO12 that knows how to win games without dominating possession."

Meanwhile, Munster head coach Anthony Foley has named his side for the PRO12 encounter away to Zebre.

Eight changes are made to the side that defeated Treviso last weekend with Darren Sweetnam set to make his first competitive start.

Five of those changes are seen in the pack.  Following his inclusion in the Ireland Six Nations squad, James Cronin has been made available to the province this weekend and returns to the starting line-up at loosehead, as does Niall Scannell at hooker, with John Ryan remaining at tighthead.

Mark Chisholm resumes his partnership with Dave Foley in the second row, while in the back row Jack O'Donoghue and Robin Copeland come in to join Billy Holland who makes his third consecutive start at blindside. Having just signed a new two-year deal with the province, Holland will also captain the side this weekend.

The first of three changes across the backline comes at scrum-half with Tomás O'Leary partnering Ian Keatley in the half-backs.  Elsewhere, Andrew Conway has recovered from a hip-pointer to start at full-back and following a run of strong performances for Munster A in this season's British and Irish Cup, Darren Sweetnam will make his first PRO12 start on the right wing.

No change on the opposite flank with last weekend's man of the match Ronan O'Mahony staying put, and Rory Scannell and Francis Saili again take charge of the midfield.

Dave O'Callaghan makes a return to the matchday squad amongst the replacements after successfully rehabbing an adductor injury.

Form: Zebre's four-game winning run in all tournaments came to an end with their 14-11 reversal at home to Gloucester in the Challenge Cup – the two sides had been drawing 11-all with only six minutes left. Zebre won the back to back fixtures against Treviso over the holiday period but have never won three Guinness PRO12 matches in succession. Munster's only loss in their last four matches was 7-27 at Stade Français in the Champions Cup on January 9. The Munstermen have won their last nine fixtures against Italian opponents in all tournaments. The two sides have met on six previous occasions with Munster winning all six (five with a bonus point) and Zebre gaining just one losing bonus point – at Parma in May 2013.

The teams: 

Zebre: 15 Kayle Van Zyl, 14 Dion Berryman, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Michele Visentin, 10 Kelly Haimona, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Jean Cook, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Emiliano Caffini, 5 Marco Bortolami (c), 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea De Marchi
Replacements: 16 Emiliano Coria, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Guillermo Roan, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Filippo Cristiano, 21 Giulio Toniolatti, 22 Mils Muliaina, 23 Ulrich Beyers

Munster: 15 Andrew Conway, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Ronan O'Mahony, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Tomás O'Leary, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Jack O'Donoghue, 6 Billy Holland (c), 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Dave Foley, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin 
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Mario Sagario, 19 Dave O'Callaghan, 20 Shane Buckley, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Cian Bohane, 23 Gerhard van den Heever

Date: Saturday, January 30
Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Elia Rizzo (Italy), Filippo Bertelli (Italy)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)