Preview: Scarlets v Zebre

Date published: April 11 2014

Wales centre Jonathan Davies will lead an experienced Scarlets side into battle against Zebre at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday.

Wales centre Jonathan Davies will lead an experienced Scarlets side into battle against Zebre at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday.

Having won the last four games at Parc y Scarlets the West Wales region will be looking to go one further than the 16-all draw game against Zebre at the Stadio XXV Aprile back in October 2013.

Scarlets Head Coach Simon Easterby has made six changes, including one positional, to his starting line-up for Saturday's clash from the side that secured an all important victory over Connacht just under a fortnight ago.

International scrum-half Rhodri Williams is the only change amongst the back-line, replacing injured Gareth Davies (dead leg), with Aled Davies deputising on the replacements bench.

Rhys Priestland will take charge at fly-half, former England international Olly Barkley partners Davies in the centre whilst Jordan Williams, Kristian Phillips and Liam Williams cover the back three.

It's a welcome return to action for fellow Welsh international Aaron Shingler. The Scarlets flanker makes his first regional start since the side's defeat to Harlequins at Parc y Scarlets in the Heineken Cup in January. Josh Turnbull moves to the right flank with Tongan international Sione Timani packing down at number eight.

South African lock George Earle also makes a return from injury and will partner international lock Jake Ball in the second row.

A new-look front row sees loose head prop Rob Evans and hooker Emyr Phillips pack down alongside Welsh tighthead prop Rhodri Jones.

Whilst Aaron Shingler makes a return to the starting line-up, younger brother Steven will be hoping to make his first regional appearance since the victory over Ulster at the Parc in November from the replacements bench as he makes a return from a long-term shoulder injury.

Scarlets Head Coach Simon Easterby said: “I think we only have to look back to the end of October when we travelled away to Zebre, we were lucky to come away with a draw on that day.

“Our driver from here on in is our own performance. Results more often than not fall in after that. If we get the performance right then that's the most important thing.

“We missed out on a top four spot because of our early season form and losing games we should have won. The most important thing now is that we finish strongly; we have to get as many points in the bag as we can and finish as high as we can.

“I think if we play similarly to what we did with ball in hand against Connacht then we'll be difficult to beat but we're not taking Zebre's challenge lightly.”

Meanwhile Zebre head coach Andrea Cavinato has rung the changes to his starting line-up. Amongst the backs, centre Gonzalo Garcia, scrum-half Brendon Leonard are the olny survivors from their 25-all draw with the Dragons in Parma two weeks ago.

David Odiete comes in at full-back in place of Guglielmo Palazzani while Giovanbattista Venditti and Giulio Toniolatti replace Leonardo Sarto and Dion Berryman on the wings.

Roberto Quartaroli takes over from Tommaso Iannone at outside centre while Iannone shifts to fly-half in place of Luciano Orquera.

Up front, Filippo Cristiano is the new openside flanker with Andries van Schalkwyk dropping down to the bench. Quintin Geldenhuys takes over the captaincy from fellow lock Marco Bortolami whose place in the second row is taken by George Biagi.

The final changes are in the front row where Dario Chistolini and Andrea Manici take over from David Ryan and Davide Giazzon at tighthead prop and hooker respectively.

Form: Scarlets have won their last four matches at Parc y Scarlets in all tournaments, since Harlequins beat them there in the European Cup on 19 January. Scarlets only defeat to an Italian opponent in their last six such contests was at home to Treviso in Round 22 last season. Zebre drew 25-all at home to the Dragons in Round 18 and are attempting to achieve back to back undefeated games for the first time. Zebre's record against Welsh regions this season is won two, drawn two, lost two. The two sides have met on three previous occasions, Scarlets winning both games last season but sharing a 16-all draw in Parma in Round Six this campaign.

Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Kristian Phillips, 13 Jonathan Davies (c), 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Jordan Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Sione Timani. 7 Josh Tunrbull, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 George Earle, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Rhodri Jones, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Phil John, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Johan Snyman, 20 Richard Kelly, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Gareth Maule.

Zebre: 15 David Odiete, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Roberto Quartaroli, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Giulio Toniolatti, 10 Tommaso Iannone, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Filippo Cristiano, 6 Filippo Ferrarini, 5 George Biagi, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys (c), 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Andrea de Marchi, 18 Luca Redofini, 19 Emiliano Caffini, 20 Andries van Schalkwyk, 21 Guglielmo Palazzini, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Ruggero Trevisan.

Date: Saturday, April 12
Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Andrew McMenemy
Assistant referees: Wayne Davies (Wales), Chris Williams(Wales)
Television match official: Tim Hayes (Wales)