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Match Page 2017-18 - Scoreboard WP ID: 132

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Preview: Munster v Zebre

Andrew Lawton 9 Feb 2018

Munster welcome Zebre to Thomond Park as the Guinness PRO14 returns to action with just seven rounds remaining after this weekend.

What’s at stake?

Munster start the weekend trailing Glasgow Warriors by 15 points at the top of Conference A and will be looking to capitalise on any slip from the Scottish side.

They will also be keeping one eye over their shoulder with Toyota Cheetahs just three points behind the Irish province with both teams on eight wins.

Zebre start Round 14 at the foot of Conference A but know their fourth win of the league season could move them above the Ospreys.

Team news (Munster):

Munster make 12 changes to the XV that beat Castres in the Champions Cup with scrum-half Duncan Williams makes his 150th Munster appearance.

Alex Wootton, Munster’s leading try scorer with seven, is joined by Simon Zebo and Darren Sweetnam in the back three for the hosts.

Dan Goggin makes his first start of the season while Sammy Arnold is back in the side for his first appearance since New Year’s Day.

Team news (Zebre):

George Biagi and Renato Giammarioli return from Six Nations duty with Italy against England to start in the pack for Zebre against Munster.

And there’s more international experience in the Zebre line-up with Giovanbattista Venditti, Tommaso D’Apice and Guglielmo Palazzani, on his 100th appearance, all included.

New Zealander Jimmy Tuivaiti makes his Guinness PRO14 debut.

Talking points

Niall Scannell said: “I’m hugely looking forward to getting back into the swing of it.

“Obviously, I haven’t had a lot of game time, but specifically on Zebre it’s great for me because they will be massively physically, they’ll have a huge scrum, so hopefully I can put my best foot forward.

“We are probably expecting more of the same – that off-loading game they are playing, running from everywhere, and that huge physicality you are always going to get off them.

“It’s a huge game for me – it’s a good challenge, and we are looking forward to it.

“We will certainly be expecting a big challenge around the scrum, which as I said earlier is massive for my game as well. Fingers crossed we get a result.”

Key battle – Billy Holland v George Biagi

The two captains go head-to-head in the second row with Biagi back with his club side having come off the bench against England in the Six Nations last week.

The 32-year-old will be looking to prove a point as he leads Zebre out and there’s no better way to start than getting one over your opposite number.

Holland is one of three players to retain their places from Munster’s 48-3 win over Castres in the European Cup.

Key stat: Munster have lost only once in their last 15 home games in all competitions, 24-34 to Leinster on 26 December.

Did you know? Carlo Canna, Zebre’s top points scorer, has scored 89 points so far this season, 15 more than Munster’s leading scorer Ian Keatley.

Munster: Simon Zebo; Darren Sweetnam, Sammy Arnold, Dan Goggin, Alex Wootton; JJ Hanrahan Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, Brian Scott; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland (C); Jack O’Donoghue, Conor Oliver, Robin Copeland.

Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Jeremy Loughman, John Ryan, Gerbrandt Grobler, Dave O’Callaghan, John Poland, Ian Keatley, Rory Scannell.

Zebre: Ciaran Gaffney, Gabriele Di Giulio, Giulio Bisegni, Faialaga Afamasaga, Giovanbattista Venditti, Serafin Bordoli, Guglielmo Palazzani, Cruze Ah-Nau, Tommaso D’Apice, Eduardo Bello, David Sisi, George Biagi (c), Renato Giammarioli, Johan Meyer, Jimmy Tuivaiti

Replacements: Luhandre Luus, Andrea De Marchi, Roberto Tenga, Leonard Krumow, Derick Minnie, Riccardo Raffaele, Maicol Azzolini, Rory Parata

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU, 41st competition game)

Assistant Referees: Craig Evans (WRU), Jonny Erskine (IRFU)

Citing Commissioner: Eddie Walsh (IRFU)

TMO: Sean Brickell (WRU)

TV: Live on TG4

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Five-star Munster down Zebre

Rich Dore 10 Feb 2018

Sam Arnold’s double helped Munster to a five-try victory over Zebre and strengthen their hold on second in the Guinness PRO14 Conference A table.

Zebre started the match well and looked likely to be the first team to score, but fell behind to Arnold’s well-worked first try just before the half-hour.

Brian Scott crossed just before half-time and Guglielmo Palazzani got one back for Zebre for the first score of the second period, before Munster cut loose.

Robin Copeland and Rory Scannell helped bring the bonus point, leaving Arnold to complete his double with the fifth to put the seal on a comfortable win.

The game started with both teams evenly matched and Zebre threatening the Irish province’s tryline with a succession of drives inside the first 15 minutes.

The scoreboard remained untroubled throughout the first quarter but on 26 minutes Munster made the breakthrough, with a succession of phases and some neat passing out wide resulting in enough space for Arnold to power over.

10 minutes later and the Limerick-based side had their second try, this time created by a catch-and-drive from a lineout with prop Scott finding himself on the end of it in the corner.

JJ Hanrahan knocked over an expert conversion from the touchline to give the home side a 12-0 lead at the break, with Zebre’s Faialaga Afamasaga unfortunately seeing his score just before it ruled out for a forward pass.

But Zebre did get their first score on 53 minutes, with good play setting up a scrum five metres out and Palazzani seeking out his way to the line from there.

Zebre’s try only seemed to empower the hosts though, and minutes later Munster had their third try after several strong carries up-field, with Copeland dotting down from barely a yard out.

This time it was left to Ian Keatley to add the extras and the Thomond Park outfit wasted no time in securing their crucial fourth try, with Keatley making a superb break to feed Scannell for the score.

There was still time for Arnold to complete his double in the final 10 minutes, with Keatley slotting home the conversion to round off an excellent win.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Match Page 2017-18 - Summary WP:137

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Performance WP:138