PREVIEW: Zebre v Connacht

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 13:09
Large bundee aki connacht v wasps 800

PRO12 CATCH-UP MATCH: Connacht travel to Italy to take on Zebre in a fixture that was abandoned in Round Three due to adverse weather conditions during the game.

Zebre were leading the game 22-10 when referee Ian Davies took the decision to end the game at the interval due to safety concerns.

Both teams come into this game trying to keep alive their mathematical chances of automatic qualification for the Champions Cup.

The home team trailed Italian rivals Benetton Rugby Treviso by six points while Connacht would need to finish above Scarlets to ensure their place in the Champions Cup on the basis that Glasgow Warriors will qualify as highest-placed Scottish team. Scarlets currently sit in fifth position, 19 points ahead of Connacht.
 
The 2016 PRO12 champions have won three of their last four games, including a 33-3 win over Zebre in Galway in Round 17.

Connacht Rugby head coach Pat Lam has made five personnel changes to his starting XV for the rearranged clash against Zebre.

With Irish internationals Tiernan O’Halloran and Kieran Marmion on a scheduled rest week, there are four enforced changes to the back line as Connacht look to make it four wins from five in the PRO12.

Ireland Sevens player Josh Rowland comes in for his first Connacht start at fullback, having made his debut from the bench against Glasgow Warriors last weekend. John Cooney starts at scrumhalf while Danie Poolman comes on to the right wing.

There is a new midfield partnership as Tom Farrell starts at outside centre with Bundee Aki shifting to number 12 this week.

Up front, there is just one change with Eoin McKeon replacing Jake Heenan, who struggled to shake off a minor shin injury picked up in the last round.

Ivan Soroka, Eoghan Masterson, Caolin Blade and Eoin Griffin are all additions to the bench with Griffin in line to make his first appearance since September 2016.

Ronan Loughney, Niyi Adeolokun, and JP Cooney all picked up minor injuries in training during the week that ruled them out of selection while Naulia Dawai did not travel as he awaits a Visa renewal.

Commenting on the clash, head coach Pat Lam said:

"We have had to make a few changes this week due to unfortunate niggles picked up in training.

"But we’re going over to Parma with a clear game plan. We are fully focused on putting in a performance against Zebre that will get us the points on offer,"

Meanwhile,  the hosts are still in search of their first home win of the season and challenge the Irish side who, at the moment, are out of the play-offs with only five games left until the end of the regular season.

There are still important points to grab for qualification to the EPCR Champions Cup.

For this fixture, Zebre can call upon seven Italian internationals who were rested for last Saturday’s match against Munster: six of them as starters with only the full back Padovani on the bench.

There are 10 Azzurri in the starting line-up chosen by coach Jimenez, six in the forward unit and four in the backs one.

Compared to the Munster game seven days ago, there are seven changes chosen by the coaching staff of the Italian Northwest franchise.

Teams:

Zebre:  15 Dion Berryman, 14 Kayle Van Zyl, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Lloyd Greeff, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Federico Ruzza, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Joshua Furno, 5 George Biagi (captain), 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Tommaso D’Apice, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Sidney Tobias, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 20 Oliviero Fabiani, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Matteo Pratichetti, 23 Edoardo Padovani

Connacht: 15 Josh Rowland, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Stacey Ili, 10 Jack Carty, 9 John Cooney, 8 John Muldoon (captain), 7 Eoin McKeon, 6 Sean O’Brien, 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ivan Soroka, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 James Cannon, 20 Eoghan Masterson, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Craig Ronaldson, 23 Eoin Griffin

Date: Saturday, April 1
Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma
Kick-off: 15.30 (16.00 GMT)
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Graeme Wells (Scotland), Emanuele Tomo (Italy)

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Team P W D L Pts
Munster 22 19 0 3 86
Leinster 22 18 0 4 85
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