Munster keen to avoid embarrassment at Zebre

Recent performances in the Heineken Cup excepted, it has been a poor campaign by Munster’s exalted standards and it will be a whole lot worse should they become the first team to lose to Zebre in their last match of the season at the Stadio XXV Aprile in Parma this evening.

Munster keen to avoid embarrassment at Zebre

The Italian franchise was established last summer to replace Aironi and have lost each of their 21 RaboDirect Pro 12 matches with a deficit of 280 and only nine bonus points to show for their endeavours.

Not that Munster themselves have much to brag about. Champions two years ago, they are currently back in sixth having won only 10 of their 21 games and are 23 points behind current leaders Ulster. Furthermore, they have not won an away game this year.

So the last thing they need today is to become Zebre’s first and only victims of the season.

The Italians are unlikely to prove a pushover. Coach Alessandro Troncon, a scrum-half who played a record 101 games for his country, always keeps a close eye on the Irish having earned quite a reputation after landing a haymaker on scrum-half Peter Stringer that earned him a red card in the Italy-Ireland game in Rome in 2001.

They are captained by the multi-capped second-row Marco Bortolami and have a number of other seasoned internationals in their ranks including Mauro Bergamasco, Giovanni Venditti, Gonzalo Garcia and Josh Sole.

From a Munster viewpoint, much interest will centre on one of their former players, Dave Ryan, who lines out at tight head prop.

While the visitors have nothing but pride to play for, the inclusion of Lion Paul O’Connell to afford him further game time before departure for Australia will make them steely.

MUNSTER: D Hurley; R O’Mahony, C Laulala, I Keatley, J Murphy; JJ Hanrahan, C Sheridan; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, J Ryan; B Holland, P O’Connell; Dave O’Callaghan, S Dougall, P Butler.

Replacements: D Varley, J Cronin, BJ Botha, I Nagle, N Ronan, D Williams, C Bohane, F Jones.

ZEBRE: R Trevisan; G Venditt, A Benettin, G Garcia, S Sinot; D Halangahu, T Tebaldi; M Aguero, D Giazzon, D Ryan, J Sole, M Bartolami capt,F Ferrarini, M Bergamasco, A Van Schalkwyk.

Replacements: A Manici, L Leibson, A De Marchi, E Caffini, F Cristiano, A Chillon, M Pratichetti, S Pace.

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