Preview: Munster v Zebre

Date published: September 30 2016

Rassie Erasmus makes no less than eight changes for Saturday's PRO12 clash with Zebre at Thomond Park. 

Long term injury returnee Peter O'Mahony is named in his first Munster side since May of last year with Springbok international Jaco Taute, Tommy O'Donnell and Simon Zebo also included. In ringing the changes, Erasmus hands lock Darren O'Shea and winger Alex Wotton their first competitive starts.

Following the successful rehabilitation of an ACL rupture sustained in Ireland's historic World Cup win over France last October, O'Mahony will hope to see some game time after being named amongst the replacements.

In terms of starting XV changes, Simon Zebo has overcome a rib injury while Tommy O'Donnell has now completed return to play protocols for concussion and will start at fullback and openside respectively.

Front-rowers Duncan Casey and Stephen Archer make their first starts of the season with Jaco Taute to make his Munster debut from the start after being named at inside centre.

A late withdrawal from last weekend's win over Edinburgh, Donnacha Ryan has recovered from illness to form a brand new-second row partnership with O'Shea. In doing so, Ryan will win his 150th Munster cap and is the first member of the current squad to reach the milestone.

With Alex Wootton named on the left wing, the final change to the starting XV is a positional one where captain Billy Holland switches to the back-row.

Meanwhile, Zebre only change two for Munster. The only change for the back-line sees the pair of centers that will see Giulio Bisegni at outside centre. The back three is made up of Edoardo Padovani with wings Gabriele Di Giulio and Giovanbattista Venditti. 

In the forward pack there are two changes in the front-rankers with Andrea Lovotti in the one jersey; his fellow department with hooker  Tommaso D'Apice binding in the centre of the scrum and tight-head Dario Chistolini at three. 

Form: Munster's solitary defeat in their last six PRO12 encounters was 23-24 in Cork to Cardiff Blues in Round 2. The Munstermen have won their last five matches at Thomond Park in all tournaments since Leinster beat ? Zebre picked up their second league point of the season during their 21-23 loss to Cardiff Blues in Parma on Saturday. The Italians have not been victorious away from home in the Championship since they visited Treviso on 3 January, whilst they have failed to score a single point in each of their last three visits to an Irish province. Munster have won all eight previous contests with Zebre whilst the Italians three previous visits to Limerick has seen them score just one try and concede 16. Dan Jones becomes the 107th different referee to take charge of a PRO12 match, last weekend he was in Lublin, Poland, refereeing that country’s 22-0 victory over Ukraine in the Rugby Europe Trophy.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander. 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Billy Holland(c), 5 Darren O'Shea, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Duncan Casey, 1 Dave Kilcoyne,
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 James Cronin, 18 John Ryan, 19 Peter O'Mahony, 20 Conor Oliver, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Cian Bohane

Zebre: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Gabriele Di Giulio, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Charles Reed, 9 William Palazzani, 8 Federico Ruzza, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Jacopo Sarto, 5 Gideon Koegelenberg, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys(c), 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Tommaso D'Apice, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Guillermo Roan, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Derick Minnie, 21 Carlo Engelbrecht, 22 Thomas Boni, 23 Lloyd Greeff

Date: Saturday, 1 October
Venue: Thomond Park
Kick-off: 17:00 (16:00 GMT)
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Simon Rees (Wales), Dermot Blake (Ireland)