Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has made six changes to his side that lost to Scarlets last weekend.
Sean O’Brien return to the side for his first start since the 2018 Christmas interpro against Ulster. His return will also be his first game since coming on as a substitute against Leinster in November 2019 before shoulder and foot injuries would rule him out for months on end.
O’Brien starts in a new look back row with Sean Masterson at open flanker and Jarrard Butler at number eight.
🟢 TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT 🟢— Connacht Rugby (@connachtrugby) November 21, 2020
The Connacht team to face @ZebreRugby in the #GuinnessPRO14 tomorrow has been named.
Ultan Dillane could earn cap number 💯 while there’s a long awaited return for Seán O’Brien! 🙌
Full story: https://t.co/Vfb1sbWaMR pic.twitter.com/HF3oqzZgtI
Ultan Dillane is set to make his 100th appearance for the Province side as he’s named among the replacements. Eoghan O’Brien starts in second row with Grant Thornbury, while Denis Buckley and Jack Aungier start in a switch-up of props.
“While there was huge frustration and disappointment with last week’s result, we’ve parked that now and put all our focus and energy on picking up a win in Italy,” stated Friend, “Parma can be a tough place to go but first ad foremost we need to return to the level of performance I know we’re capable of.”
“I’d like t congratulate Ultan Dillane on potentially making his 100th appearance for Connacht and I’m delighted to welcome Sean O’Brien back in the side after his long layoff. I’ve seen first-hand the efforts he’s made to get back to full fitness, so his return is a big boost for us.”
Friend’s side go into this weekend’s fixture sitting in fourth spot in Conference B of their Guinness PRO14 campaign. Zebre sit bottom of Conference A with just five points. After last week’s disappointing loss to rivals Scarlets, Connacht will look to bounce back and return to Ireland with a victory in Parma. Zebre go into the game after a dismal 57-14 loss to Ulster and will hope to perform at a higher standard against more formidable opponents this weekend.
Zebre v Connacht – KO 14:30 UK / 15:30 ITA
Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma
Referee: Dan Jones (WRU, 31st competition game)
Assistant Referees: Marius Mitrea, Matteo Liperini (both FIR)
TMO: Stefano Penne (FIR)
Live on eir Sport 1, DAZN, ESPN+ (USA), pro14.tv.
Zebre: Junior Laloifi, Giovanni D’Onofrio, Giulio Bisegni (CAPT), Tommaso Boni, Gabriele Di Giulio, Antonio Rizzi, Joshua Renton, Andrea Lovotti, Marco Manfredi, Eduardo Bello, Leonard Krumov, Mick Kearney, Lorenzo Masselli, Renato Giammarioli, David Sisi.
Replacements: Oliviero Fabiani, Alexandru Tarus, Matteo Nocera, Massimo Ceciliani, Nicolò Casilio,Paolo Pescetto, Michelangelo Biondelli.
Connacht: John Porch, Sammy Arnold, Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Alex Wootton, Jack Carty, Colm Reilly, Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Jack Aungier, Eoghan Masterson, Gavin Thornbury, Sean O’Brien, Sean Masterson, Jarrad Butler (CAPT).
Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Paddy McAllister, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Abraham Papali’i, Stephen Kerins, Conor Fitzgerald, Peter Sullivan.
Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: While there was huge frustration and disappointment with last week’s result, we’ve parked that now and put all our focus and energy on picking up a win in Italy. Parma can be a tough place to go but first and foremost we need to return to the level performance I know we’re capable of.
I’d like to congratulate Ultan Dillane on potentially making his 100th appearance for Connacht, and I’m also delighted to welcome Sean O’Brien back in the side after his long layoff. I’ve seen first-hand the efforts he’s made to get back to full fitness, so his return is a big boost for us.”