Match Preview from pro14rugby.org

Another crucial Conference A clash. This time we face Zebre at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi for the first time this season. We currently sit fifth with Zebre sixth in Conference A.

 

TV: TG4 from 1.10pm.
Twitter: Follow our live commentary from Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi on Twitter at #ZEBvCON
Match centre:
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What’s at stake? Zebre’s comeback victory over Ulster in Round Five was the highlight in an otherwise tricky season, losing their last four league matches.

But a victory would trim the gap to Connacht who are six points ahead of the Italians in the standings.

Similarly, Connacht’s season has been marred by inconsistency but they have won two of their last three matches including impressive victories over Munster and the Toyota Cheetahs.

A win for Connacht could see them leapfrog Cardiff Blues in the table and trim the gap to third-placed Cheetahs

 

Team news (Zebre): The return of nine internationals to the Zebre squad should give them the boost they need to take on the Irish province.

There is also good news on the injury front with David Sisi and George Biagi return to the squad. Baigi will captain the side against Connacht.

 

Team news (Connacht): Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane has included new signing Pita Ahki among his starting XV for the first time.

Keane has also going for a new half back pairing with Steve Crosbie lining up alongside Kieran Marmion at scrum half following his return from international duty. In the pack Shane Delahunt, who scored two tries against Cardiff, starts at hooker where he is flanked by Denis Buckley at loosehead and Finlay Bealham at tighthead.

 

Talking points: Head coach Kieran Keane said: “While we were disappointed not to beat Cardiff last week, I was proud of the boys and the way they battled to take two points from the game. In this competition it is really important to do well against teams in our conference.”
“We will face a big challenge against Zebre on Saturday. They have made it difficult against a lot of teams so far this season particularly when they are at home. We will need to be at our best to beat them.”

 

Key Battle: Giulio Bisegni v Tom Farrell

Giulio Bisegni has been a rock for the Zebre side so far this season and was impressive again in the defeat to Munster.

The centre dotted down in the 35th minute but couldn’t prevent a 36-19 defeat. However with internationals returning around him, Bisegni could be a key cog in the Zebre machine.

Tom Farrell has enjoyed a consistent run in the Connacht line up and has been impressive throughout the season.
The 24-year-old has more offloads than anyone else in the league and has also made 329 metres so far in this campaign.
Did you know? Zebre secured one of only three wins last season when they beat Connacht 25-22 the last time the Irish province travelled to Parma.

 

Key Stat: No player has more offloads in the Guinness PRO14 so far this season than Thomas Farrell (23).

 

Zebre: Matteo Minozzi, Mattia Bellini, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Boni, Giovanb, attista Venditti, Carlo Canna, Marcello Violi, Andrea Lovotti, Oliviero Fabiani, Dario Chistolini, Leonard Krumov, George Biagi, Maxime Mbandà, Johan Meyer, Renato Giammarioli
Replacements: Luhandre Luus, Cruze Ah-Nau, Eduardo Bello, David Sisi, Jacopo Sarto, Guglielmo Palazzani, Serafin Bordoli, Ciaran Gaffney

 

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Pita Ahki, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Steve Crosbie, Kieran Marmion, Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, James Connolly, John Muldoon
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Cillian Gallagher, Naulia Dawai, James Mitchell, Jack Carty, Eoin Griffin.

 

Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)
AR1: Sean Gallagher (IRFU) AR2: Gianluca Gnecchi (FIR) TMO: Leo Colgan (IRFU)

 

We return to European action next weekend away to Brive followed by a return leg at home in the Sportsground.

 

 

 

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