Zebre welcome Munster as the Guinness PRO14 returns for Round 9 after a two-week break.
Munster arrive sitting second in the Conference A table while their Italian hosts have been struggling for form this season, only one place off the bottom.
The Parma-based side have never beaten Munster but will be keen to return to winning ways after their defeat in Cardiff against the Blues.
What’s at stake:
Munster’s undefeated record against Zebre will be on the line having run out winners in all of their previous 12 encounters.
The Munstermen will also be looking to defend their position in the table as only three points separate them from fifth-placed Connacht.
Zebre have won only once in the last five rounds of the Guinness PRO14, their victory at home to Edinburgh, so will be desperate for a win in front of the home fans.
Giulio Bisegni and Jimmy Tuivaiti have returned from international duty with Italy and will start the game at centre and flanker respectively.
The latest squad addition, the New-Zealand scrum-half Josh Renton, is ready to grab his debut from the bench.
Conor Murray, Chris Farrell and Conor Oliver all make their return to the matchday squad but are restricted to places on the bench.
Tyler Bleyendaal will continue his captaincy from inside centre and the Irish side hand academy player, Gavin Coombes, his first start in the Guinness PRO14.
The pack sees Jeremy Loughman, Kevin O’Byrne and Stephen Archer in the front row with Fineen Wycherley and Darren O’Shea partnering in the second row.
Stephen Archer (Munster prop) said: “It will be tough on Sunday and I imagine it will be cold and wet down there, it always is this time of year.
“They have only lost once at home so far this season. It’s not an easy place to go and I’m sure that Michael Bradley will have them chomping at the bit to get at us.
“We had most of last week off and then it was back to training last Friday and we have been fully focused on the Zebre game.
“With it being a Sunday game as well, it’s a longer lead-in than normal. I’m just looking forward to getting back onto the pitch and playing rugby.
You just want to keep the momentum from the last few wins going, rugby is all about momentum and keeping that winning habit.”
Key battle: Francois Brummer v JJ Hanrahan
Last time out Zebre slumped to a 37-0 loss to Cardiff Blues and it will be up to fly-half Brummer to help them get some points on the board the time around.
Munster will look to their 10, JJ Hanrahan, to do the same for them in the absence of Joey Carbery.
Zebre have lost only one of their last seven home games in all tournaments, 22-8 to Ospreys in Round 5 of the Guinness PRO14.
Did you know? The two sides have met on a dozen previous occasions with Munster victorious each time.
Zebre: Gabriele Di Giulio, Paula Balekana, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Boni, Jamie Elliott, Francois Brummer, Riccardo Raffaele, Cruze Ah-Nau, Massimo Ceciliani, Dario Chistolini, Leonard Krumov, David Sisi, Jimmy Tuivati, Maxime Mbanda, Giovanni Licata
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Daniele Rimpelli, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 George Biagi, 20 Renato Giammarioli, 21 Josh Renton, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Giovanbattista Venditti
Munster: Mike Haley; Ronan O’Mahony; Rory Scannell, Tyler Bleyendaal (C); Alex Wootton; JJ Hanrahan, Neil Cronin; Jeremy Loughman, Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer; Fineen Wycherley, Darren O’Shea; Gavin Coombes, Chris Cloete, Arno Botha.
Replacements: Mike Sherry, Brian Scott, Ciaran Parker, Sean O’Connor, Conor Oliver, Conor Murray, Bill Johnston, Chris Farrell
TV: Kick off at 4.30pm, live on Premier Sports
Referee: Sam Grove-White (SRU)
Assistant Referees: Fin Brown (SRU), Matteo Liperini (FIR)
TMO: Dave Pearson (SRU)
Munster registered their 13th straight win over Zebre but they were made to work hard for their 32-7 victory in the Guinness PRO14.
Fineen Wycherley and Kevin O’Byrne bagged tries in the first half for the visitors, who built up a 17-point lead at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
Zebre scored first after the break through replacement Renato Giammarioli but late tries from Ronan O’Mahoney and Rory Scannell meant Munster finished clear of their Italian hosts.
The result means the Irish side keep the pressure on Conference A leaders Glasgow Warriors thanks to their second consecutive away win while Zebre slip to bottom of the table after Toyota Cheetahs’ win earlier this weekend.
Munster had the best of the early exchanges with winger O’Mahoney carrying strongly in the Italian half as they hunted for an early score. The pressure told as it led to Wycherley extending to touch down under the posts, with Bill Johnston adding the extras in his second start for the club.
O’Byrne doubled his sides’ lead just before the half hour mark. The ball rolled through the phases from a line-out to create space for the hooker to dive over in the corner.
A long-range penalty from Johnston made it 17-0 just before half-time, taking his first half points tally to seven.
The game was far more even after the break, with Zebre piling the pressure onto the visitors for more than 20 minutes with powerful forward play.
Munster managed to hold firm in defence as the hosts came closest from a driven line-out where the Irish sides’ defence managed to hold them out on the hour mark.
Zebre’s pack had another powerful drive a few minutes later and back-row replacement Giammarioli powered over to register their first points of the game, with Francois Brummer kicking the conversion.
The score rejuvenated the visitors for their best spell after the break, which resulted in a 25 metre penalty with Rory Scannell smashing it through the posts to extend Munster’s lead to 13 points.
Munster’s kick-chase proved crucial as they added a third try on 74 minutes through O’Mahony, who slid in touch down the ball after a fumbled pass by the defender before Scannell added the bonus point try right at the end when the ball was recycled following a cross-field kick.