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Preview: Zebre v Munster

Charlie Peat 24 Nov 2017

Zebre and Munster will renew their Guinness PRO14 campaigns this weekend as the Irish province head to the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi at 2.30pm in Parma.

What’s at stake?

This will be Munster head coach Johann van Graan’s first taste of Guinness PRO14 action, and he will be desperate to get off to a winning start.

Munster currently sit second in Conference A but are eight points off Glasgow Warriors and have lost two of their last three matches in the league.

As for Zebre, following their stunning victory over Ulster in Round Five, the Italian outfit have suffered three defeats in a row and will be looking to make home advantage count against the Irish province.

Team news (Zebre): The Italian side has welcome news on the injury front with Italian international Maxime Mbanda returning to the squad for his first cap of the season along with scrum-half Riccardo Raffaele.

Andrea De Marchi is poised to make his 100th Guinness PRO14 appearance if he comes off the bench.

Team news (Munster): Two changes have been made from the Munster side that defeated Dragons 49-6 at Irish Independent Park last time out.

James Hart, who moved from Racing 92 in the summer, will make his first start for Munster at scrum-half in place of the injured Duncan Williams. Sam Arnold is also promoted to the starting XV in place of Chris Farrell who is on international duty.

Talking points: Munster’s new head coach Johann van Graan cannot wait to see his side in action for the very first time this weekend after replacing Rassie Erasmus.

“When I walked through those doors you can taste winning,” van Graan said.

“I’ve been to spots like the New England Patriots, the Westpoint Academy, just north of New York, and places like Racing Metro; this ranks up there among the best in the world.

“I’m very fortunate to be a part of this and this is not all about me. It’s about Munster Rugby, the people working here and the people who have been here before.”

Key Battle: Giulio Bisengi v Darren Sweetnam

Darren Sweetnam will be coming back to Munster bursting with confident following his international outing with Ireland against Fiji.

The wing scored his first international try in the 23-20 victory in Dublin and will be looking to bring that form into the match against Zebre.

With a number of Zebre players on international duty, Giulio Bisegni could hold the key to success for the Italians this weekend.

Bisegni impressed during his side’s last victory in the Guinness PRO14, a thrilling 27-23 triumph over Ulster, making 49 metres and might have to do the same again if Zebre are to notch up their third win of the season.

Key stat: No player won more turnovers in Round Eight than Zebre’s Derick Minnie (3), in his side’s 37-8 loss to the Cardiff Blues.

Did you know?

Zebre have won their last two matches against Irish provinces, having also beaten Connacht in April – doubling their previous tally of successes against Irish opponents.

Zebre: C Gaffney, P Bruno, G Bisegni, F Afamasaga, G D’Onofrio, M Azzolini, G Palazzani, C Ah-Nau, L Luus, E Bello, J Tucker, L Krumov, J Sarto, J Meyer, D Minnie

Replacements: O Fabiani, A De Marchi, R Tenga, D Fragnito, M Mbanda, R Raffaele, M Pratichetti, V Bernabo

Munster: S Zebo; D Sweetnam, S Arnold, R Scannell, A Wootton; JJ Hanrahan, J Hart; L O’Connor, R Marshall, S Archer; J Kleyn, B Holland; J O’Donoghue, C Cloete, R Copeland

Replacements: K O’Byrne, B Scott, C Parker, D O’Shea, S O’Connor, J Stafford, B Johnston, C Nash

TV: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Sky Sports, 2.30pm (local time)

Match officialsReferee: Lloyd Linton (SRU) AR1: Keith Allen (SRU) AR2: Vincenzo Scipani (FIR) TMO: Neil Paterson (SRU)

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

Munster kick off van Graan’s reign with victory

Charlie Talbot-Smith 26 Nov 2017

Alex Wootton crossed for a double as Munster were made to fight hard against Zebre before claiming a first win of Johan van Graan’s reign.

Rory Scannell and James Hart both crossed in the first half for Munster as they appeared to be cruising to a Guinness PRO14 victory that would help them keep pace with Glasgow Warriors in Conference A.

But after both Robin Copeland and Sam Arnold were sent to the sin bin, Zebre – who beat Ulster in round five – came roaring back as Giulio Bisegni and skipper Jacopo Sarto both crossed.

However, after the break Munster dominated and when restored to their full complement put the game to bed when Wootton sped clear for two tries.

That takes the young winger to seven tries for the Guinness PRO14 season already, only behind Cheetahs flyer Makazole Mapimpi at the top of the charts.

That secured the bonus point for van Graan – who only arrived in Limerick this week to take over from Rassie Erasmus meaning coaches Felix Jones and Jerry Flannery took charge of most of the preparations.

Simon Zebo laid on the second for Wootton with a fantastic break and pass that hit his winger in stride but the Ireland star then went off with what looked like a shoulder injury.

Giovanbattista Venditti did cross late on for the Italians but they could not secure a losing bonus point as it ended 36-19 to the Irish province – Calvin Nash scoring his first Munster try with the final play of the game.

Munster head home to prepare for the visit of the Ospreys next weekend while Zebre welcome Connacht to Italy.

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