Preview: Ulster v Zebre

Date published: September 11 2014

Captain Rory Best will make his first appearance of the season after being named in the team to face Zebre on Friday evening.

Captain Rory Best will make his first appearance of the season after being named in the team to face Zebre on Friday evening.

The British & Irish Lions hooker is one of eight changes to the side that drew 32-32 away to Scarlets on the opening weekend of the Pro12.

Best is joined in the front row by Andrew Warwick, with Wiehahn Herbst retaining his place at tighthead prop.

Dan Tuohy also keeps his place and is partnered at lock by Lewis Stevenson. Nick Williams comes into the side at number eight and is joined by Robbie Diack and Chris Henry who gave impressive displays at Parc y Scarlets.

Darren Cave makes his first start of the season and with Luke Marshall forms an experienced midfield partnership.

Andrew Trimble and full-back Ricky Andrew come into the back three alongside Craig Gilroy. Paul Marshall and Ian Humphreys will combine at half-back once more.

Ruaidhri Murphy, a close season signing from the Brumbies, is in line to make his first Pro12 appearance after being named in the matchday 23.

Zebre meanwhile have made seven changes from the side that went down 41-26 at home to Cardiff Blues last time out.

The biggest movement comes in the backline, with skipper Gonzalo Garcia, full-back Hendrik Daniller and fly-half Brendon Leonard the only players to keep their places.

Leonard will form an all-New Zealand half-back partnership with Kelly Haimona, while Giulio Bisegni gets a start in the centres.

David Odiete and Giulio Toniolatti get the nod on the wings for Andrea Cavinato's side.

There is also some change in the back, with Filippo Cristiano and Mauro Bergamasco starting in the back row, while Andrea de Marchi is at loosehead.

Form: Ulster's only victory in their last five Guinness PRO12 encounters was 19-17 at Munster in round 22 last season, whilst their 32-all draw in Llanelli on Saturday being their highest scoring draw in the history of the tournament.

Ulster were defeated 20-22 on their most recent match in Belfast and have not lost back-to-back matches at Kingspan Stadium since April 2010.

The Ulstermen's only previous defeat to an Italian opponent in any tournament came at home to Treviso in the PRO12 in October 2011.

Zebre have slipped to successive defeats, at Glasgow and at home to Cardiff Blues, whilst their only previous away victory came at Cardiff in round 3 last season.

Ulster have won all four previous contests against Zebre although the Italians have garnered two losing bonus points and a try bonus point along the way.

The teams:

Ulster:15 Ricky Andrew, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Andrew Warwick
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Ruaidhri Murphy, 18 Bronson Ross, 19 Franco van der Merwe, 20 Roger Wilson, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Stuart Olding, 23 Louis Ludik.

Zebre: 15 Hendrik Daniller, 14 David Odiete, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Gonzalo Garcia (c), 11 Giulio Toniolatti, 10 Kelly Haimona, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Filippo Cristiano, 6 Mauro Bergamasco, 5 George Biagi, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Andrea De Marchi
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Andrea Lovotti, 18 Luciano Leibson, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 21 Quintin Geldenhuys, 21 Samuela Vunisa, 22 Guglielmo Palazzani, 23 Edoardo Padovani

Date: Friday, September 12
Kick-off: 19:35 BST
Venue: Kingspan Stadium
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland), Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
Television match official: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)
Assessor: Jack Young (Ireland)