CONNACHT v ZEBRE
Connacht are looking to preserve their 100 per cent record over Italian visitors Zebre in Friday night's Guinness Pro 12 meeting at the Galway Sportsground.
The home side, with 11 points from a possible 15 in the opening three rounds, view the fixture as a must-win at home in this first of a 16-game run of Pro 12 and European fixtures on the bounce.
In 11 meetings in both Pro 12 and Europe, Connacht have never lost to Zebre, and last year recorded a comfortable 43-3 win at home.
However, coach Pat Lam is taking no chances, making just one change to the side that overcame Cardiff with a five-try bonus point win two weeks ago. Rodney Ah You, having recovered from a hamstring, comes in for Finlay Bealham in the frontrow in a game that will also mark wing Matt Healy's 50th for the province.
“It is about putting out the best team for the game,” says Lam. “The last few years we have won quite comfortably, but we have had to work hard. Protecting our home ground is really important to us and tomorrow’s game with Zebre is another must-win.”
Zebre arrive in Ireland without a win this season, but have been boosted with the return of two of their Italian World Cup contingent, hooker Andrea Mancini and lock Valerio Bernabo, who are in named in the starting XV which also includes experienced former Wallaby, scrumhalf Luke Burgess.
CONNACHT: T O'Halloran, D Poolman, R Parata, B Aki, M Healy, J Carty, K Marmion, D Buckley, T McCartney, R Ah You, Q Roux, A Browne, J Muldoon (cpt), N Fox-Matamua, E McKeon. Replacements:, S Delahunt, C O'Donnell, F Bealham, A Muldowney, E Masterson, J Cooney, C Ronaldson, D Leader. ZEBRE: U Beyers, D Berryman, T Boni, M Pratichetti, K Van Zyl, E Padovani, L Burgess, A Lovotti, A Manici, P Ceccarelli, V Bernabo, G Biagi (cpt), J Meyer, J Sarto, A Van Schalkwyk. Replacements: T D'Apice, A De Marchi, E Coria, M Bortolami,G Palazzani, M Visentin, C Canna. Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)