Munster aim to keep bit between teeth with Toulouse on horizon
Rassie Erasmus names strong line-up for visit to Pro12 bottom club Zebre
Peter O’Mahony , fresh from his man-of-the-match performance in Ireland’s win over England, returns to captain Munster. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters
Zebre v Munster, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Saturday, 2pm Irish time
The difference in attitude to team composition could not be more pronounced as Zebre rest a number of their Italian internationals while Munster’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has confirmed a strong team for a match in which the visitors should be confident of returning with maximum points.
Peter O’Mahony fresh from his man-of-the-match performance in Ireland’s win over England, returns to captain the side and is one of four changes to the pack. Niall Scannell and John Ryan, who came on against England, are named in the starting team, while Jack O’Donoghue is back after rolling an ankle against the Ospreys.
There is one positional switch up front with Dave O’Callaghan moving to the secondrow to partner Billy Holland. Tyler Bleyendaal is the only change in the backline, which now contains one additional Irish international after Andrew Conway’s debut at the Aviva Stadium last weekend.
Prop James Cronin returns to the bench after recovering from a finger injury that had sidelined since January, while David Johnston, a brother of Ireland Under-20 outhalf, Bill, is included in his first competitive match-day squad of the season.
Bottom side Zebre have promoted Italian international Tommaso Boni, Marcello Violi and Maxime Mbanda, while three South Africans, wing Kayle van Zyl and backrowers Johan Meyer and Derick Minnie, return following injury.
It’s two-and-a-half years since the Italian side have beaten an Irish province and their last win in this season’s league was back in October. Munster’s form on the road has been impressive with eight victories in nine matches, the only defeat coming against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium.
In nine previous meetings, Munster have picked up a bonus point on seven occasions and anything other than that again would constitute a major surprise.
The Irish province faces Toulouse at Thomond Park in their Champions Cup quarter-final next weekend and Erasmus will be looking for an upbeat performance against Zebre, players well aware that they are fighting to retain a jersey for the most important game of the season so far.
ZEBRE: D Berryman; K Van Zyl, T Boni, T Castello, L Greeff; S Bordoli, M Violi; B Postiglioni, O Fabiani, B Le Roux; G Koegelenberg, V Bernabo (capt); M Mbanda, J Meyer, D Minnie.
Replacements: S Tobias, A De Marchi, G Roan, J Furno, F Ruzza, C Engelbrecht, M Pratichetti, G Palazzani.
MUNSTER: A Conway; D Sweetnam, J Taute, R Scannell, R O’Mahony; T Bleyendaal, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan; D O’Callaghan, B Holland; P O’Mahony (capt), T O’Donnell, J O’Donoghue.
Replacements: R Marshall, J Cronin, S Archer, D O’Shea, C Oliver, A Lloyd, D Johnston, D Goggin.
Referee: S Gallagher (Ireland)