Preview: Zebre v Scarlets

Date published: December 2 2016

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac has made four changes to his side for Saturday's clash with Zebre in Parma. 

Internationals DTH van der Merwe and Jonathan Davies come in to the back-line whilst Tadhg Beirne comes in to the second row with Tom Price the only positional change alongside him.

The region is without newcomer Johnny Mcnicholl who underwent emergency surgery on Monday for an acute medical complaint.

Samson Lee, Jake Ball and Gareth Davies return from the international window and come in on the replacements bench whilst loosehead prop Rob Evans is named on the replacements bench looking for his first regional appearance since May.

Pivac said: "Traditionally we've gone out there and for the four points but it's been a very difficult task. The challenge for us is to go out there and generate the same atmosphere we'd have had home within our own camp and make sure that the boys are up for it and motivated.

"They're really excited by the fact they've been able to turn around the slow start to the season. To be six on the trot is no mean feat. The boys are in a good space.

"They're certainly a team that look at their home games at this time of year. They're an improving side and one that we certainly won't be taking lightly. It's fantastic from a coaching point of view that young players are taking their opportunities and play well."

Meanwhile, Zebre second-row Quintin Geldenhuys – who announced his retirement from the Italian national team during the week – will captain the Zebre outfit.

The home side have been boosted by the return of several Italian internationals. In all, there are eight changes to the side named for last weekend's clash against Ulster in Belfast which was postponed due to an iced pitch at Kingspan Stadium.

There are five alterations in the back-line, with Mattia Bellini shifting to the right wing where he replaces Simone Balocchi. This is to accommodate Giovanbattista Venditti who will wear the number 11 jersey.

Elsewhere, Tommaso Boni is preferred to Matteo Pratichetti at outside centre while Carlo Canna and Marcello Violi replace Alberto Chiesa and Guglielmo Palazzani at fly-half and scrum-half respectively.

In the forwards, Andries van Schalkwyk starts at number eight which means Derick Minnie moves to the openside flank where he takes over from Giovanni Pettinelli while Geldenhuys comes in for Gideon Koegelenberg at lock and Tommaso D'Apice replaces Carlo Festuccia at hooker.

Form: Zebre’s only victory so far this season was 19-14 against Edinburgh at Murrayfield in Round 7. The Italians have not won at home in Parma since beating the Dragons 47-22 on 7 May. Scarlets have won their last six PRO12 matches, and three of the last four with a try bonus point. Scarlets have won their last two away games in the Championship but have not been victorious in three in a row on the road in the same season since the end of the 2014/15 campaign. Scarlets have not lost to an Italian side since Treviso visited Parc y Scarlets in May 2013. The Welshmen have never been defeated by Zebre, although the two did play out a 16-all draw in Parma in October 2013.  

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Dion Berryman, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys (c), 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Tommaso D'Apice, 1 Bruno Postiglioni 
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Guillermo Roan, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Valerio Bernabò, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Matteo Pratichetti, 23 Edoardo Padovani

Scarlets: 15 Aled Thomas, 14 DTH van der Merwe, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes (c), 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Will Boyde, 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Tom Price, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Wyn Jones 
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Josh Macleod, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Gareth Owen

Date: Saturday, December 3
Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma
Kick-off: 15:05 local (14:05 GMT)
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Kieran Barry (Ireland), Filippo Bertelli (Italy)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)