ZEBRE (10th) v MUNSTER (2nd), Stadio XXV Aprile, 7.30pm local time/6.30pm Irish time (live Mediaset/RTÉ Two extended highlights on Saturday evening)
Team News: Ireland lock Donnacha Ryan will make his first start of the season when he lines out for Munster against Zebre at the Stadio XXV Aprile on Friday.
The returning Ryan will make his first 2013/14 appearance in a Munster jersey, starting next to Ian Nagle in the second row.
Andrew Conway, who scored a try in the limited time he played against Gloucester in the pre-season game, makes a return from the dead leg he sustained that day, while James Downey, capped for the first time on Ireland's summer tour, is named amongst the replacements.
Damien Varley will captain the side from hooker and is joined by fellow Ireland international David Kilcoyne and John Ryan in the front row.
The last outing against Zebre saw Munster only narrowly defeat the Italian side 27-25 in Parma and the Italians, who suffered a 25-16 defeat to Connacht last weekend, will be looking to open their home campaign with a positive start.
The province's head coach Rob Penney said: "They were pretty robust against Connacht and they'll be heading home with the desire to get their stadium off to a winning start so that brings some hurdles of their own.
"Zebre are a physical, challenging side and we found that out last year. They've some good players there and they are not the roll over team that people think they are."
Please note the game will not be televised in Ireland - there is coverage in Italy on Mediaset - but RTÉ Two will show extended Zebre v Munster match highlights on Saturday from 5.05pm.
Meanwhile, for their first home fixture of the campaign at the refurbished Stadio XXV Aprile, new head coach Andrea Cavinato has made seven personnel changes from the Connacht game.
Two of those switches come in the back-three where Dion Berryman and Giulio Toniolatti make way for Ruggero Trevisan and Leonardo Sarto at full-back and on the right wing respectively.
It is all change in the front row as Salvatore Perugini, hooker Andrea Manici - the scorer of Zebre's late try in Galway - and Luca Redolfini combine up front.
Injuries have forced Mauro Bergamasco and Emiliano Caffini out of the reckoning, with Filippo Ferrarini and South African Andries van Schalkwyk taking over from the pair in the back row.
ZEBRE: Ruggero Trevisan; Leonardo Sarto, Kameli Ratuvou, Gonzalo Garcia, Giovanbattista Venditti; Luciano Orquera, Brendon Leonard; Salvatore Perugini, Andrea Manici, Luca Redolfini, Quintin Geldenhuys, Marco Bortolami (capt), Filippo Ferrarini, Andries van Schalkwyk, Samuela Vunisa.
Replacements: Davide Giazzon, Matias Aguero, Dario Chistolini, George Biagi, Filippo Cristiano, Alberto Chillon, Tommaso Iannone, Dion Berryman.
MUNSTER: Denis Hurley; Johne Murphy, Casey Laulala, Ivan Dineen, Andrew Conway; JJ Hanrahan, Cathal Sheridan; David Kilcoyne, Damien Varley (capt), John Ryan; Donnacha Ryan, Ian Nagle; CJ Stander, Tommy O'Donnell, Paddy Butler.
Replacements: Mike Sherry, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Dave Foley, Niall Ronan, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, James Downey.
Referee: Andrew McMenemey (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Elia Rizzo, Francesco Russo (both Italy)
Television Match Official: Alan Falzone (Italy)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Zebre to win: 12/5; Draw: 22/1; Munster to win: 1/3
Pre-Match Quotes: Ivan Dineen (Munster) - "It has been a good start for me. It's the first season I have been completely injury free in terms of doing a whole pre-season not being injured with my knees or my hip, so it has been a good start against Gloucester and Edinburgh.
"It's also probably the toughest season for positions, across all the squad, there are four or five good centres there, the standards are good everywhere. I'm hoping to kick on but the competition is tough.
"I can even see from 12 months ago to now the standard of even how we pass the ball and how we move and play, the game we play has gone up hugely and there is no option but to be that good.
"Against Edinburgh I think there was only one ball or two maximum that hit the ground. That's the standard they had to be at but it was outstanding.
"I know that Felix (Jones), Simon (Zebo) and Keith (Earls) will come back and get their chances but they'll have to play excellently following those early performances.
"If you don't perform the 80 minutes you might have to wait another two weeks to get a shot and it might be too late. It has got everyone concentrating on the fact that each 80 minutes you play you have got to be playing at 100%.
"It cranks up the pressure in terms of selection because there is a lot of quality around, especially in the second and back rows and the back-three and only so many can go into the Heineken Cup squad."
Andrea Cavinato (Zebre) - "We were too cautious in attack, giving Connacht too many points without showing the intensity needed to score. For example for their first try we defended well beforehand, only to lose our lineout (and give them an intercept score).
"For Connacht's second try we gave them possession and then made errors in the first phase, missing tackles when we had enough numbers. The first 20 minutes were positive however.
"Despite conceding a stupid try, we tried to play with diligence and organisation. There are positives from the changes we made to raise our game - there was an improvement from the pre-season games."
Top Scorers - 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Zebre - Points: Luciano Orquera 11; Tries: Andrea Manici 1; Munster - Points: Ian Keatley, JJ Hanrahan 7 each; Tries: Denis Hurley, James Coughlan, James Cronin, Ivan Dineen, JJ Hanrahan 1 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, October 26, 2012 - Munster 29 Zebre 3, Thomond Park
Friday, May 3, 2013 - Zebre 25 Munster 27, Stadio XXV Aprile
- Zebre's barren spell in the RaboDirect PRO12 continued with their 25-16 loss to Connacht in Galway last Saturday
- Munster defeated Edinburgh 34-23 in Cork last Saturday running in five tries, as they aim to keep up their record of not losing a round 1 or 2 game in the PRO12 since the 2009/10 season
- Munster got the better of Zebre (27-25) on their only previous visit to Parma in round 22 of last season's league
|25/3/17||Zebre Rugby||14 - 50||Munster Rugby||2,000|
|1/10/16||Munster Rugby||49 - 5||Zebre Rugby||11,737|
|25/3/16||Munster Rugby||47 - 0||Zebre Rugby||13,063|