Preview: Zebre v Munster

Date published: January 9 2015

Munster head coach Anthony Foley has named his squad to face Zebre in Saturday’s PRO12 fixture, with Keith Earls and James Cronin included.

Having successfully rehabbed a knee injury sustained at an Ireland training camp during pre-season, Earls could make his first appearance of the season after being named amongst the replacements for this weekend’s clash in Italy.

Prop Cronin could also feature from the bench after recovering from a shoulder injury sustained during Munster’s Champions Cup defeat to Clermont Auvergne at the start of December.

In total Foley makes seven personnel changes from the side that started in the defeat away to Connacht on New Year’s Day.

In the front-row Eusebio Guinazu makes his first start for the province, doing so at loosehead alongside hooker Kevin O’Byrne and tighthead Stephen Archer, both of whom come back into the starting line-up.

The return of Dave Foley to the second-row will see Billy Holland wear the number five jersey this weekend, while in the back-row CJ Stander is alongside Dave O’Callaghan and Peter O’Mahony, who moves to openside for the first time this season.

Conor Murray resumes his partnership with Ian Keatley in the half-backs and JJ Hanrahan and Pat Howard continue in the midfield at inside and outside centre respectively.

Just one personnel change in the back-three sees Felix Jones come in at fullback meaning Simon Zebo reverts back to the left wing with Ronan O’Mahony on the opposite flank.

Meanwhile, Zebre head coach Andrea Cavinato will be looking to bounce back from back-to-back losses to Italian rivals Treviso.

Marco Bortolami leads the side from second-row alongside Quintin Geldenhuys, with Brendon Leonard and Edoardo Padovani the half-backs and Kelly Haimona at inside centre.

Zebre remain without Matias Aguero, George Biagi, Giulio Bisegni, Hendrik Daniller, Tommaso D’Apice, Filippo Ferrarini, Gonzalo Garcia, Andrea Lovotti, Matteo Pratichetti, Michele Visentin and Samuela Vunisa due to injury.

Form: Zebre have now slipped to three successive Guinness PRO12 defeats since their 18-10 victory over Edinburgh in Parma in round 9. Zebre’s only previous victory in 25 encounters with Irish provinces in all tournaments came at home to Ulster on 27th September. Munster’s only victory in their last five fixtures in all competitions was 28-13 at home to Leinster in the Guinness PRO12 on 26th December. Munster have not been victorious on the road since a trip to Newport Gwent Dragons in the PRO12 on 21st November, but they have won on three of their last four visits to Italy. The two sides have met on five previous occasions with Munster successful every time – four times with a try bonus point.

The teams:

Zebre: 15 David Odiete, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Kelly Haimona, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Edoardo Padovani, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Filippo Cristiano, 5 Marco Bortolami (c), 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Luca Redolfini, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Andrea De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Luciano Leibson, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Valerio Bernab