Preview: Zebre v Scarlets

Date published: October 2 2015

The Scarlets head to Parma on Sunday hoping to cement their place at the top of the PRO12 against Zebre.

Victories in the opening rounds of the 2015/16 campaign sees Scarlets top the table looking for another historic victory this weekend.

Scarlets' victory over Glasgow in the opening round saw the Scottish side's 20-game home win record come to an end with a home victory over Ulster in the second round equaling Scarlets' best-ever run in the competition.

As PRO12 action returns this weekend, following a Rugby World Cup break, Scarlets head to Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi looking for a seventh consecutive victory.

John Barclay will lead the side in his 150th PRO12 appearance with two personnel changes in the pack. Rob Evans replaces Phil John in the starting line-up with George Earle coming in to the second row for Lewis Rawlins.

Llanelli born Jordan Williams returns to the side replacing the injured Steff Evans at full-back in his first regional game since March following shoulder surgery.

Michael Tagicakibau and Rhodri Williams are also named in the starting XV having recovered from a hamstring injury and concussion respectively.

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac said: "This is a one off game over in Zebre before another week off. Last season we won it in the last play of the game and the season before it was a last minute penalty to take the draw. We know it's not going to be easy and they've improved from round one to round two.

"We expect them to be stronger at home. We'll show them a lot of respect, we'll go out there and try and build on what we've created in the camp over the last month. It's an important game for us."

Zebre meanwhile, are still after a first win of the season as they take on Welsh opposition for the third time in as many matches. 

After defeats away to the Dragons and the Blues, Zebre will play their first game on home soil, and include debutant Mils Muliaina in the starting lineup.

With ten players away on international duty, Zebre have been hit hard by the World Cup, but they will use the game to give a debut to new signing Ian McKinley, who is named on the bench.

McKinley had been playing lower league rugby in Italy as he recovered from the loss of his eyesight in his left eye, and will wear special goggles that have been approved by World Rugby.

Form: Zebre have lost their last eight PRO12 matches since beating Dragons 23-17 in Parma on 1st March.
Zebre are attempting to achieve a 'grand slam' of home victories over the four Welsh regions, having beaten Blues and Ospreys in 2014 and Dragons in 2015. Scarlets top the PRO12 table for the first time since round 4 of the 2012/13 campaign, having won their last six fixtures to equal their best ever run in the competition. The Welshmen have not been defeated in Italy since Treviso did so in September 2012.

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Matteo Pratichetti, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Kayle Van Zyl, 10 Edoardo Padovani, 9 Fabio Semenzato, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 George Biagi (c), 4 Michele Sutto, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Tommaso D'Apice, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Emiliano Coria, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Giuseppe Di Stefano, 19 Jacopo Sarto, 20 Filippo Cristiano, 21 Giulio Toniolatti, 22 Dion Berryman, 23 Ian McKinley

Scarlets: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Hadleigh Parkes, 13 Regan King, 12 Gareth Owen, 11 Michael Tagicakibau, 10 Daniel Jones, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 John Barclay (c), 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Tom Price, 4 George Earle, 3 Peter Edwards, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Rob Evans 
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Phil John, 18 Will Taylor, 19 Tom Phillips, 20 Jack Condy, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Aled Thomas

Date: Sunday, October 4
Venue: Stadio XXV Aprile, Parma
Kick-off: 14:00 local (12:00 GMT)
Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Matteo Liperini, Filippo Bertelli (both FIR)
TMO: Alan Falzone (FIR)