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Preview: Zebre v Scarlets

21st March 2013 12:55

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Matthew Rees Scarlets hooker 2013

Matthew Rees: Starts at hooker for Scarlets

The Scarlets welcome back several Welsh internationals for Friday's PRO12 clash with Zebre at Stadio XXV Aprile in Parma.

Liam Williams moves to the wing as Gareth Owen returns from injury to take up the full-back spot after an impressive run of games earlier this year.

Aaron Shingler starts in the back row alongside experienced colleagues Johnathan Edwards and captain Rob McCusker while Matthew Rees starts at hooker with another set of experienced Scarlets campaigners in the front row - props Phil John and Deacon Manu.

Wales centre Scott Williams is on the bench for some added strike power and Aled Davies get the number nine jersey to start with Owen Williams at fly-half and impressive scrum-half talent Rhodri Williams on the bench.

Scarlets boss Simon Easterby believes this week's full training sessions had showed that some time off had re-energised his team.

"We needed to finish the last block of rugby with a win which we secured against Edinburgh and the boys have benefitted from the chance to rest a few tired, bruised and battered bodies as well as the opportunity to clear their heads a little.

"It's been a very positive week back in full training at Parc y Scarlets, with the boost of the international players coming back energised by their victory in the Six Nations and we are now clearly focused as a group on these next five games which we have to win to retain our control on a top four finish.

"During the international window, the players who remained at Parc y Scarlets shown real commitment and we have kept us in a good position.

"We have to respect all the teams we play now and that includes how we approach our challenge against Zebre on Friday night.

"Zebre may have lost a lot of games this year but have come very close to teams at nearly every point - so we have to be really focused on our job in hand as players and as coaches.

"They will be very competitive and we will not be going out there underestimating what we need to do to get a result.

"The Italian players will be very upbeat after Italy's finish to the Six Nations and with that they will post a real threat to us and our ability to retain our control on our play-off ambitions.

"They're well-coached and we are going to have to be really up for this and need a strong performance to get the result we need.

"We've hopefully managed time off with some good rugby preparation as well with our players - we will see the response to that on Friday night."

"A play-off place is still in our control and that's up to us to follow through with that now with results."

Easterby said an exciting finish to the season was really building:

"There is plenty to go in terms of the fixtures left, we have to play Glasgow and a lot of the top placed sides still have to play each other - so it's going to be about points taken from taken from sides as well as the ones you win.

We are in the mix and it's great that there is still so much to play for in the short amount of games left; we have potentially a really good run in."

More to follow

Form: Zebre have lost all 23 matches they have played this season in all competitions, eight by seven points or less. Scarlets only defeat in the last four rounds of PRO12 play was 5-32 to Leinster in Dublin on February 23. The Scarlets have lost their last five away games in all tournaments since beating Cardiff Blues 9-6 at the Arms Park in the PRO12 on 21 December. The Welshmen have already been defeated in Italy this season, going down 20-22 at Treviso on September 29. Scarlets won 22-13 when the two sides met in round eight of this season's PRO12.

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Alberto Bennettin, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Matteo Pratichetti, 12 Giovanbattista Venditti, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Paolo Buso, 9 Alberto Chillon, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Emiliano Caffini, 5 Josh Sole, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 David Ryan, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Andrea Manici, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Luciano Leibson, 19 Michael Van Vuuren, 20 Filippo Cristiano, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Roberto Quartaroli.

Scarlets: 15 Gareth Owen, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Rob McCusker (c) 7 Johnathan Edwards, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Johan Synman, 4 George Earle, 3 Deacon Manu, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Sione Timani, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Scott Williams.

Date: Friday 22 March
Venue: Stadio XXV Aprile, Parma
Kick-off: 19:00 (local), 18:00 (GMT)
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Stefano Penne (Italy), Stefano Roscini (Italy)
Television match official: Carlo Damasco (Italy)

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Forthcoming Fixtures
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Pool 4
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PosTeamPPts
1Clermont Auvergne624
2Harlequins616
3Scarlets611
4Racing Metro Paris67