Preview: Zebre v Ospreys

Date published: December 4 2015

Former All Blacks full-back Mils Muliaina will make his debut for Zebre in Sunday's clash with the Ospreys at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.

Muliaina start in the number 15 jersey alongside Azzurri centre Gonzalo Garcia who also makes his bow for Zebre.

The international duo's inclusion are part of seven changes to Zebre's run-on side, including one positional switch. Muliaina comes in for Guglielmo Palazzani at the back while inside centre Garcia lines up in a new midfield combination alongside Tommaso Boni.

The final change in the back-line sees Marcellp Violi replacing Luke Burgess at scrum-half.

In the forwards, Paul Derbyshire moves from the openside flank to number eight where he takes over from Andries van Schalkwyk, with Johan Meyer coming in to wear the number seven jersey.

The final change is in the front row where Dario Chistolini replaces Pietro Ceccarelli.

Meanwhile, Ospreys Head Coach, Steve Tandy has made eight changes to his run-on side.

In the backs, Jeff Hassler returns to action on the right wing at the expense of Tom grabham while Josh Matavesi comes in at inside centre for Hanno Dirksen who drops down to the bench. 

There's also a new halfback pairing with Sam Davies and Tom Habberfield replacing Dan Biggar and Brendon Leonard respectively.

And in the pack, James King comes in for Dan Lydiate on the blindside flank while first-choice openside Justin Tipuric takes over the captaincy from Alun Wyn Jones.

Jones and Rory Thornton are replaced in the second row Tyler Ardron and Lloyd Ashley while Paul James comes in at loosehead prop for Ryan Bevington.

"We are going out to Italy knowing that we have to be at our very best on Sunday," said Tandy.

"They've got an excellent record at their place, are a very dangerous side, and if we are just a cou-ple of percent off our game then we won't get what we need from the game.

"Our slow start in the PRO12 means there's no margin for error for us. Our form over the last few weeks, in the league and in Europe, has been better, but there is still some way for us to go. We are heading in the right direction but nobody is under any illusions about where we are as a group at the moment.

"The attitude we showed last weekend against the Blues was very pleasing. It wasn't a vin-tage performance, we know that, but you've got to put things in context. There was a short turnaround from a huge, physical game in France, the conditions were awful, and we found ourselves behind on the scoreboard, but we dug in and showed real character.

"What was most pleasing was the way we defended in the last four or five minutes to keep them at bay. That spoke volumes about the culture we have here, about how the boys play for each other and for the jersey. Like the week before, we kept going right until the whistle and got our reward.

"The next five or six weeks are massive for us now. It's important that we keep building momentum, keep working hard to improve week on week, and get our performances right. It's an exciting time, with big game after big game, but we've got to stay focused if we are going to achieve what we want over the next few weeks.”

Form: Zebre’s last seven matches in all tournaments have all been won by the home side on the day. The Italians have won their last three home matches, against Edinburgh and the Blues in the PRO12 and Worcester in the European Challenge Cup. Ospreys have won their last two PRO12 matches, against Zebre and the Blues both at Liberty Stadium, but their only away victory in any tournament since May came on a visit to Treviso in Round Four. The two sides have met on seven previous occasions with Zebre’s only victory so far being 30-27 in Parma on 1 May 2014. 

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Dion Berryman, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Kayle Van Zyl, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Paul Derbyshire, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Jacopo Sarto, 5 George Biagi (c), 4 Valerio Bernabò, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Guillermo Roan, 19 Marco Bortolami, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Giulio Bisegni, 23 Edoardo Padovani.

Ospreys: Dan Evans, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Eli Walker, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Justin Tipuric (c), 6 James King, 5 Tyler Ardron, 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Ma'afu Fia, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Olly Cracknell, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Hanno Dirksen.

Date: Sunday, December 6
Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Kick-off: Kick-off: 15:00 (local) 14:00 GMT
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Elia Rizzo (Italy), Luca Trentin (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Penne (Italy)