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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Zebre v Connacht

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Zebre v Connacht

Both Connacht and Zebre failed to score a try in round 1 of the RaboDirect PRO12, so with an extra week’s work behind them the crowd will expect some better finishing in this historic first encounter at the Stadio XXV Aprile.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, September 7

ZEBRE (12th) v CONNACHT (7th), Stadio XXV Aprile, 7.05pm local time/6.05pm Irish time (live TG4/Sport Italia)

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Team News: Connacht head coach Eric Elwood has named his team and replacements to take on Zebre in their first away match of the RaboDirect PRO12.

There are no changes to the starting line-up from their 13-9 first round defeat to the Cardiff Blues.

But debutant prop Nathan White and Frank Murphy have been added to the province’s replacements bench, stepping in for Finlay Bealham and David Moore respectively.

Connacht will be looking to convert last weekend’s possession and opportunities into points when they challenge Italian newcomers Zebre in Parma on Saturday (kick-off 7.05pm local time/6.05pm Irish time).

Despite crossing the try-line twice in the first half an hour, handling errors denied the home side a try which would have made all the difference playing into the strong wind.

Previewing the second round clash, Elwood said: “It’s a ‘must win’ match for both of us. They lost their opening game as well and it will be their first ever home match, so they will be up for it. But it gives us an immediate chance to put things right.”

Meanwhile, Zebre’s French boss Christian Gajan has made four changes in personnel for the club’s home debut in the league. They lost 37-6 away to the Newport Gwent Dragons in the opening round of games.

Alberto Benettin, who is 21, will make his bow at outside centre against Connacht, replacing the injured Roberto Quartaroli, while another emerging talent Alberto Chillon is also set for his first start at scrum half.

In a welcome boost, veteran Italy flanker Mauro Bergamasco has recovered from a muscle injury and will make his first start for the new franchise. Former international Josh Sole will take over from the benched Emiliano Caffini in the second row.

Former Munster prop David Ryan gets a chance to impress at tighthead prop, forming a strong front row combination with the experienced duo of Salvatore Perugini and Carol Festuccia.

ZEBRE: Sinoti Sinoti, Giovanbattista Venditti, Alberto Benettin, Gonzalo Garcia (capt), Samuele Pace; Luciano Orquera, Alberto Chillon; Salvatore Perugini, Carlo Festuccia, David Ryan, Quintin Geldenhuys, Josh Sole, Filippo Cristiano, Mauro Bergamasco, Andries van Schalkwyk.

Replacements: Davide Giazzon, Andrea de Marchi, Luca Redolfini, Emiliano Caffini, Nicola Belardo, Tito Tebaldi, Alberto Chiesa, Ruggero Trevisan.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy (capt); Tiernan O’Halloran, Eoin Griffin, Mata Fifita, Fetu’u Vainikolo; Miah Nikora, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Ethienne Reynecke, Ronan Loughney, Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, John Muldoon, Johnny O’Connor, George Naoupu.

Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Rodney Ah You, Nathan White, David Gannon, Willie Faloon, Frank Murphy, Matthew Jarvis, Robbie Henshaw.

Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Stefano Roscini, Elia Rizzo (both Italy)
Television Match Official: Carlo Damasco (Italy)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Zebre to win: 6/5; Draw: 20/1; Connacht to win: 4/6

Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “It’s going to be challenging. In soccer parlance, it;s the proverbial six-pointer. We lost and they lost and now we are their first visitors,” he told the Galway Advertiser.

“I have watched their pre-season games against Northampton and Perpignan – two quality sides. In attack they were magnificent. Their offloads, ball skills and continuity were very impressive, so we are in for a stiff challenge. Certainly Zebre will ask questions of our defence.

“Our scrum was good (against Cardiff) and we showed good dominance, but we are going to have to make that dominance pay.

“However, we will need to improve our lineout and have more control there as a launch pad for our backs. With the dry ball we should see more from our backs in attack, and also improve our kick chase game.”

Gonzalo Garcia (Zebre) – “The first thing we want to do is win the match. And if we win playing in a way that doesn’t please the fans then I am sorry but I’m sure they’ll be happy for the win, as will everybody else.

“We have prepared very well for the game this weekend, always keeping it in our minds.

“We want to play a multi-phase game, moving the ball but also be tactically intelligent. We have prepared well and I hope we will manage to play as we have trained.”

Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Zebre – Points: Luciano Orquera 6; Tries: -; Connacht – Points: Miah Nikora 9; Tries:




– Stadio XXV Aprile becomes the 36th different ground, and the third in Italy, to host a game in the history of this tournament

– The new Italian franchise, Zebre, lost 37-6 to the Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade on their debut in RaboDirect PRO12 last Friday

– Connacht have lost their last two matches in the competition to Glasgow Warriors and the Cardiff Blues, whilst their only victory on the road since round 1 last season was a 27-19 success at the Dragons in March

– The westerners have won just one previous RaboDirect PRO12 game in Italy, 1 beating Benetton Treviso 11-9 twelve months ago