Newcomer Craig Clarke has been ruled out of Saturday's game due to a calf injury picked up in the pre-season friendly against Newcastle.
Brett Wilkinson, who was granted Irish citizenship last month having arrived at Connacht in 2006, makes up the front row trio with Jason Harris-Wright and Nathan White.
George Naoupu starts at number 8, earning his 50th cap for the province, and packs down alongside flankers John Muldoon and Willie Faloon.
In the backs, recent Ireland debutant Robbie Henshaw returns to the fray for his first Connacht game of the season at full-back.
The back-three is completed by Connacht's most prolific try scorer and recent returnee, Fionn Carr, on the right wing and Matt Healy, who started two of the westerners' three pre-season games, on the left.
On the bench, new signings Sean Henry, Aly Muldowney, Jake Heenan and Craig Ronaldson are all in line to make their competitive debuts for Connacht.
Head coach Pat Lam is looking forward to his first league game in charge, saying: "Everything we have been doing in pre-season has been geared towards this Saturday and we are ready to go.
"We know the importance of this game. Zebre are a tough side and are hanging out for a win. But we cannot worry about them. The focus is on us as a team, making sure we do exactly what we have been working on, that we have clarity in our jobs.
"We want the four points, we want the win, but the real focus is on us playing as a team. If we do that, the chances of getting the four points will increase."
While Saturday's match at the Sportsground will not be televised, Connacht Rugby will have live updates on their official Twitter account.
Connacht v Zebre tickets are still available from the Connacht Rugby office, online from tickets.ie and in Centra and SuperValu stores province-wide. Tickets start at just €20 for adults, and all children's tickets (4 to 17-years-old) are €5.
Please not that an 'on the day' charge of €3 will apply to all concession and adult tickets bought at the box office on matchday. There is no additional charge for children's tickets. Click here for more on ticket prices for the 2013/14 season.
CONNACHT (v Zebre): Robbie Henshaw; Fionn Carr, Danie Poolman, Eoin Griffin, Matt Healy; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Brett Wilkinson, Jason Harris-Wright, Nathan White, Michael Swift (capt), Andrew Browne, John Muldoon, Willie Faloon, George Naoupu.
Replacements: Sean Henry, Rodney Ah You, Ronan Loughney, Aly Muldowney, Jake Heenan, Frank Murphy, Craig Ronaldson, Tiernan O'Halloran.