Van Graan wary of trip to Michael Bradley’s Zebre

It will be a proud day for the Scannell/O’Sullivan families when Munster take the field against Zebre in the Guinness Pro14 in Milan tomorrow night.

Van Graan wary of trip to Michael Bradley’s Zebre

It will be a proud day for the Scannell/O’Sullivan families when Munster take the field against Zebre in the Guinness Pro14 in Milan tomorrow night. Hooker Niall Scannell captains the province for the first time and at his side will be his brother Rory in the centre and cousin Jack O’Sullivan in the back row.

It will be a fascinating encounter for a few other reasons as well. The 1985 Ireland Triple Crown hero and Munster and Cork Constitution great Michael Bradley is head coach of the Italians and yet another Corkman, Ian Nagle, lines out in the second row where his partner is the former Connacht and Leinster forward Mick Kearney.

Head coach Johann van Graan’s first match in charge of Munster was away to Zebre in 2017 and he has happy memories of a comfortable win. However, he is expecting a different atmosphere on this occasion, not least because the game is taking place not in the Italian club’s customary stadium in Parma but at a venue adjacent to Milan, some three hours away.

Rugby followers in the area have been looking forward to tonight’s game since it was moved from Parma to the 5,000-capacity Stadio Giovanni Mari at Legnano as part of a rugby festival highlighted by the Italy-Scotland women’s international on Sunday.

“Zebre are one of those sides that have improved a lot,” Van Graan stresses. “You only have to look at what they did to the Cheetahs, not a lot of teams put 40 points on them, and Leinster only beat them 3-0 at home.

Progress may have been slow but signs of improvement throughout this season suggest that they are fully capable of causing an upset tonight, an outcome that would assuredly fill Bradley with a degree of quiet satisfaction.

While missing most of his frontline players to Six Nations duty with Italy, Bradley is confident that his team will be all the stronger for the return of out-half Francois Brummer after long-term injury and New Zealand-born number 7 Jimmy Tuivati, the only one of their eleven Italian panellists released back for this fixture.

Munster have made six changes from the side that enjoyed a record 68-3 win over Southern Kings last week although quite noticeably Van Graan has retained several players central to that performance. Skipper Scannell again starts with James Cronin and John Ryan on either side in the front-row, while Arno Botha and Shane Daly, who contributed five tries in that game, are retained in the back row and on the wing respectively.

JJ Hanrahan continues at out-half while those getting their chance from the outset are centres Sammy Arnold and Rory Scannell, scrum-half Craig Casey, Darren O’Shea in the second-row, and flankers Chris Cloete and O’Sullivan.

The return of Darren Sweetnam and Tommy O’Donnell (out since October and December respectively with hamstring trouble) to the replacement panel is a big boost to the squad.

Munster last night confirmed that Andrew Conway, Billy Holland and Jeremy Loughman have all signed contract extensions with the province.

ZEBRE: J Laloifi; P Balekana, J Elliott, T Boni, P Bruno; F Brummer, J Renton; D Rimepelli, M Ceciliani, E Bello; I Nagle, M Kearney; M Mbanda, J Tuivati, R Giammarolli.

Replacements – M Luccardi, R Burgnara, M Nocera, L Krumoy, G Biagi, N Casilio, P Paolo, E Lucchin.

MUNSTER: M Haley; C Nash, S Arnold, R Scannell, S Daly; JJ Hanrahan, C Casey; J Cronin, N Scannell capt, J Ryan; F Wycherley, D O’Shea; A Botha, C Cloete, J O’Sullivan.

Replacements – K O’Byrne, J Loughman, S Archer, G Coombes, T O’Donnell, N Cronin, D Goggin, D Sweetnam.

Referee – Dan Jones (Wales).

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More in this section

CourtsRugbyMunster RugbyPlace: MilanPlace: ParmaPlace: Stadio Giovanni MariPlace: LegnanoPlace: New ZealandPlace: WalesPerson: van GraanPerson: Michael BradleyPerson: ScannellPerson: O’SullivanPerson: Niall ScannellPerson: RoryPerson: Jack O’SullivanPerson: ItaliansPerson: Ian NaglePerson: Mick KearneyPerson: Johann van GraanPerson: ZebrePerson: BradleyPerson: Francois BrummerPerson: Jimmy TuivatiPerson: Skipper ScannellPerson: James CroninPerson: John RyanPerson: Arno BothaPerson: Shane DalyPerson: JJ HanrahanPerson: Sammy ArnoldPerson: Rory ScannellPerson: Craig CaseyPerson: Darren O’SheaPerson: Chris CloetePerson: Darren SweetnamPerson: Tommy O’DonnellPerson: Andrew ConwayPerson: Billy HollandPerson: Jeremy LoughmanPerson: J LaloifiPerson: P BalekanaPerson: J ElliottPerson: T BoniPerson: P BrunoPerson: F BrummerPerson: J RentonPerson: D RimepelliPerson: M CecilianiPerson: E BelloPerson: I NaglePerson: M KearneyPerson: M MbandaPerson: J TuivatiPerson: R GiammarolliPerson: M LuccardiPerson: R BurgnaraPerson: M NoceraPerson: L KrumoyPerson: G BiagiPerson: N CasilioPerson: P PaoloPerson: E LucchinPerson: M HaleyPerson: C NashPerson: S ArnoldPerson: R ScannellPerson: S DalyPerson: C CaseyPerson: J CroninPerson: N ScannellPerson: J RyanPerson: F WycherleyPerson: D O’SheaPerson: A BothaPerson: C CloetePerson: J O’SullivanPerson: K O’ByrnePerson: J LoughmanPerson: S ArcherPerson: G CoombesPerson: T O’DonnellPerson: N CroninPerson: D GogginPerson: D SweetnamPerson: Dan JonesPerson: DuncanPerson: John QuillEvent: Guinness PRO14Event: 1985 Ireland Triple CrownEvent: Six NationsOrganisation: MunsterOrganisation: ZebreOrganisation: CorkOrganisation: CorkmanOrganisation: ConnachtOrganisation: LeinsterOrganisation: ItalyOrganisation: CheetahsOrganisation: Southern Kings
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