Preview: Zebre v Ulster

Date published: February 24 2017

For Sunday’s game the Zebre coaching staff welcome back two athletes who missed Friday’s away game against the Scarlets.

Flanker Johan Meyer and centre Tommaso Castello both return from their respective injuries.

Among the new faces there are also three permit players, Fiamme Oro Rugby’s Dennis Bergamin and Fragnito and Rugby Colorno’s Simone Balocchi ,while Italy’s head coach O’Shea allowed three italian internationals to play club rugby this weekend: Tommaso Boni, Federico Ruzza and Joshua Furno.

There is a first-ever call-up for the South African hooker Sidney Tobias; coming off the bench, who could earn his debut in European rugby.

Meanwhile, Les Kiss has named a strong Ulster squad which will see Tommy Bowe reach a special milestone for the province.

Bowe, who made his Ulster debut against Connacht back in April 2004, will earn his 150th cap against the Italians after being named on the right wing.

Meanwhile, Jared Payne has recovered from a kidney injury he picked up while on international duty in November and is selected among the replacements. The Ireland back will be joined on the bench by Hughes Insurance Academy player David Busby, who could make his senior debut.

In all, Kiss has made nine changes to the starting team that recorded a 37-17 bonus point win over Glasgow at Kingspan Stadium last week.

Six of those changes come up front and will lead to an all-new front five. Rob Herring will captain the side from hooker and will make up the front row along with Andy Warwick and Wiehahn Herbst. Robbie Diack and Alan O’Connor are paired together as the starting locks for the first time.

Clive Ross is picked at blindside flanker and will be joined in the back row by Chris Henry and Marcell Coetzee, who has had a major impact in his first two outings for the province.

In the backline, Ruan Pienaar and Pete Nelson will continue their half-back partnership, while Stuart Olding has recovered from an elbow injury and will link up with Luke Marshall in midfield.

Charles Piutau has also recovered from injury to take his place on the left wing, opposite Bowe, while Jacob Stockdale – a double try scorer against Glasgow – will line out at full-back.

Callum Black, John Andrew, Ricky Lutton, Pete Browne and Sean Reidy, who all started in the pack last week, are named among the replacements. Scrum-half Paul Marshall will join Payne and Busby as backline cover in the match day squad.

Form: Zebre have not won since beating Edinburgh at Murrayfield in October, whilst their only home win in Parma since Christmas 2015 was over Newport Gwent Dragons in May. Ulster have won their last two PRO12 fixtures, both at home to Scottish opponents, Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors, whilst their only away victory since September came on a trip to Cardiff Blues in Round 10. Zebre’s only previous victory over the Ulstermen was 13-6 in Parma in September 2014 – the only occasion that Ulster have lost a game in Italy.

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Dion Berryman, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Lloyd Greeff, 10 Serafin Bordoli, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Federico Ruzza, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Dennis Bergamin, 5 Valerio Bernabò (c), 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Guillermo Roan, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Bruno Postiglioni
Replacements: 16 Sidney Tobias, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Bartholomeus Le Roux, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Davide Fragnito, 21 Carlo Engelbrecht, 22 Tommaso Castello, 23 Simone Balocchi

Ulster: 15 Jacob Stockdale, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Peter Nelson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Marcel Coetzee, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Clive Ross, 5 Alan O’Connor, 4 Robbie Diack, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Andrew Warwick
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Callum Black, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Jared Payne, 23 David Busby

Date: Sunday, February 26
Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma
Kick-off: 13:30 local (12:30 GMT)
Referee: Sean Gallagher (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (Ireland)