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GUINNESS PRO12 Preview: Ulster v Zebre

GUINNESS PRO12 Preview: Ulster v Zebre

Ulster will be aiming to extend their unbeaten record against Zebre when they host the Italians at Kingspan Stadium in the second round of the GUINNESS PRO12.

GUINNESS PRO12: Friday, September 12

ULSTER (7th) v ZEBRE (11th), Kingspan Stadium, 7.35pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland)

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Team News: Ulster captain Rory Best will make his first appearance of the season after being named in the team to face Zebre at Kingspan Stadium.

Best is one of eight changes to the side that drew 32-32 away to the Scarlets on the opening weekend of the GUINNESS PRO12.

The Ireland and Lions hooker is joined in the front row by Andrew Warwick, with newcomer Wiehahn Herbst retaining his place at tighthead prop.

Dan Tuohy also keeps his place and is partnered at lock by Lewis Stevenson. Nick Williams comes into the side at number 8 and is joined by Ireland internationals Robbie Diack and Chris Henry who produced impressive displays in Llanelli.

Darren Cave makes his first start of the season, forming a solid centre partnership with Luke Marshall. Andrew Trimble and full-back Ricky Andrew come into the back-three alongside Craig Gilroy. Paul Marshall and Ian Humphreys will combine at half-back once more.

Ruaidhri Murphy, a close season signing from the Brumbies, is in line to make his first PRO12 appearance after being named in the matchday 23.

A number of players who made significant contributions in last week’s game are also named among the replacements. Franco van der Merwe and Louis Ludik, who marked their competitive debuts with a try apiece, are named on the bench along with Roger Wilson, Stuart Olding, Rob Herring, Bronson Ross and Michael Heaney.

Tickets for the BBC 2 Northern Ireland-televised game remain on sale for all areas of the ground. For the best remaining available tickets, buy online here.

Match tickets will also be available on the gate with the ticket booth opening at 6pm. These will be restricted to terrace tickets only.

Meanwhile, Zebre boss Andrea Cavinato is preparing his charges for two consecutive away games in Ireland – against Ulster and Munster.

The Italians trailed Cardiff Blues 17-15 at half-time in last Sunday’s league opener in Parma but the Rhys Patchell-inspired visitors finished as comprehensive 41-26 victors in the end.

With a short turnaround to deal with, Cavinato has made a number of changes for the Ulster game. Full-back Hendrik Daniller, centre Gonzalo Garcia and scrum half Brendon Leonard are the only survivors in the chosen back-line.

Garcia, who captains Zebre for the 17th time, will have Giulio Bisegni alongside him in the centre with Kelly Haimona joining fellow New Zealander Brendon Leonard at half-back.

Andrea de Marchi replaces Matias Aguero at loosehead prop, while Andries Ferreira and George Biagi combine in the second row and Mauro Bergamasco and Filippo Cristiano link up with South African Andries van Schalkwyk in a changed back row.

ULSTER: Ricky Andrew; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy; Ian Humphreys, Paul Marshall; Andrew Warwick, Rory Best (capt), Wiehahn Herbst, Lewis Stevenson, Dan Tuohy, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Ruaidhri Murphy, Bronson Ross, Franco van der Merwe, Roger Wilson, Michael Heaney, Stuart Olding, Louis Ludik.

ZEBRE: Hendrik Daniller; David Odiete, Giulio Bisegni, Gonzalo Garcia (capt), Giulio Toniolatti; Kelly Haimona, Brendon Leonard; Andrea de Marchi, Andrea Manici, Dario Chistolini, Andries Ferreira, George Biagi, Mauro Bergamasco, Filippo Cristiano, Andries van Schalkwyk.

Replacements: Oliviero Fabiani, Andrea Lovotti, Luciano Leibson, Valerio Bernabò, Quintin Geldenhuys, Samuela Vunisa, Guglielmo Palazzani, Edoardo Padovani.

Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Peter Fitzgibbon, John Carvill (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ulster to win: 1/50; Draw: 50/1; Zebre to win: 12/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Paul Marshall (Ulster) – “Both games (against Zebre) were really tight (last year), the home game if I remember it right wasn’t a good night weather-wise which disrupted the game a bit.

“Zebre are a physical team and they’re going to challenge the breakdown and get stuck into us and we need to make sure that we’re prepared for that ourselves and get in first.

“They have an exciting back-line as well with some new signings in the backs and they want to play a bit as well and they’ve a decent scrum and after those couple of close runs last year they’ll be looking to take our scalp.

“From our point of view we don’t want to concede anywhere near that many points (32 against the Scarlets) again this weekend. Hopefully some of the good attacking we had last weekend will see us try and kick on again with that this week.

“For us it is the small details and the small margins that make the difference. That does sound like a cliché but it’s true. We know we’re a good side but we know we have to perform under pressure to get the rewards.”

Top Scorers – 2014/15 GUINNESS PRO12: Ulster – Points: Ian Humphreys 12; Tries: Franco van der Merwe, Dan Tuohy, Louis Ludik, Andrew Trimble 1 each; Zebre – Points: Kelly Haimona 6; Tries: Brendon Leonard, Filippo Ferrarini, Dion Berryman 1 each


Sunday, November 18, 2012 – Zebre 25 Ulster 27, Stadio XXV Aprile
Friday, February 15, 2013 – Ulster 26 Zebre 3, Ravenhill
Saturday, November 30, 2013 – Zebre 11 Ulster 19, Stadio XXV Aprile
Friday, December 20, 2013 – Ulster 13 Zebre 6, Ravenhill


– Ulster’s only victory in their last five GUINNESS PRO12 encounters was 19-17 at Munster in round 22 last season, while their 32-all draw in Llanelli last Saturday was the highest scoring draw in the history of the league

– Ulster were defeated 22-20 in their most recent match in Belfast and have not lost back-to-back games at the newly-named Kingspan Stadium since April 2010

– The Ulstermen’s only previous defeat to Italian opponents in any competition came at home to Benetton Treviso in the PRO12 in October 2011

– Zebre have slipped to successive defeats, at Glasgow Warriors and at home to Cardiff Blues, while their only previous away victory came at Cardiff in round 3 last season

– Ulster have won all four previous contests with Zebre although the Italians have garnered two losing bonus points and a try-scoring bonus point along the way