Planet Rugby

Preview: Connacht v Zebre

28th February 2013 12:20

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SKY_MOBILE Dan Parks - Connacht

Dan Parks: Back at 10 for Connacht

Connacht boss Eric Elwood has made three changes to his starting Xv for Friday's clash with Zebre at the Sportsground in Galway.

Robbie Henshaw, who was on international duty last week, is named at full-back for his 21st Connacht appearance.

27-year-old Brian Murphy, who made his Connacht debut in Cardiff last week, will start again at inside centre, in a partnership with fellow Galway native Eoin Griffin.

Gavin Duffy is named on the wing, replacing Fetu'u Vainikolo who moves to the bench.

Dan Parks was forced to withdraw late from last week's fixture due to a niggling hamstring injury. He returns to fly-half duties tomorrow night.

There is just one change up front with Mick Kearney replacing Michael Swift in the second row.

Swift sustained a knee injury during training earlier in the week. Connacht's highest capped player is waiting on scan results to determine the severity of the injury.

Meanwhile, Zebre boss Christian Gajan has rung the changes to his side after last weekend's narrow 14-13 defeat to the Dragons in Parma.

Amongst the backs, Italian internationals Paolo Buso and Gonzalo Garcia replace Alberto Chiesa and Samuele Pace respectively.

While Buso is a straight swap for Chiesa at fly-half, Matteo Pratichetti moves out one position to outside centre in place of Pace while Garcia will wear the number 12 jersey which he (Pratichetti) wore against the Welsh region.

In the forwards, Josh Sole is switched from blindside flank to lock, in place of Michael van Vuuren, while Mauro Bergamasco takes over on the side of the scrum.

There is also a new front-row with David Ryan and Andrea de Marchi taking over from Luca Redolfini and Matias Aguero, as the first-choice props, while Andrea Mancini replaces Carlo Festuccia at hooker.

Form: Connacht have won three of their last four games in the PRO12, whilst the Irishmen have been victorious in their last three fixtures at the Sportsground in all competitions. Connacht have won their last five matches against Italian opponents in all tournaments.Zebre recorded their second loss by the narrowest of margins in being defeated 13-14 by Newport Gwent Dragons in Parma on Sunday - it was the fifth occasion in the PRO12 that Zebre have been leading inside the final quarter of a game only to eventually lose the match.The two sides have met on three occasions this season - once in the PRO12 and twice in the Heineken Cup - with Connacht victorious every time. Zebre lost 20-25 on their only previous visit to the Sportsground on January 18.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Brian Murphy, 11 Gavin Duffy (c), 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 John Muldoon, 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Nathan White, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Ronan Loughney, 19 TJ Anderson, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Fetu'u Vainikolo.

Zebre: tbc

Date: Friday, 1 March
Venue: The Sportsground, Galway
Kick-off: 19:45
Referee: Neil Hennessy (Wales)
Assistant referees: Michael Black (Ireland), Ed Kenny (both Ireland)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)

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