The hosts, with 11 points from 15 in the opening three rounds, view tonight’s fixture as a must-win, the first of a run of 16 consecutive Pro12 and European fixtures.
In 11 meetings in both Pro12 and Europe, Connacht have never lost to Zebre, and last year won 43-3 at home. However, coach Pat Lam is taking no chances, making just one change to the side that overcame Cardiff with a five-try bonus point win two weeks ago. Rodney Ah You, having recovered from a hamstring, comes in for Finlay Bealham in the front row in a game that will also mark wing Matt Healy’s 50th for the province.
“The last few years we have won quite comfortably, but we have had to work hard,” said Lam. Protecting our home ground is really important.”
Zebre arrive in Ireland without a win but have been boosted with the return of two of their Italian World Cup contingent, hooker Andrea Mancini and lock Valerio Bernabo, in their starting XV.
T O’Halloran, D Poolman, R Parata, B Aki, M Healy, J Carty, K Marmion, D Buckley, T McCartney, R Ah You, Q Roux, A Browne, J Muldoon (cpt), N Fox-Matamua, E McKeon. Replacements, S Delahunt, C O’Donnell, F Bealham, A Muldowney, E Masterson, J Cooney, C Ronaldson, D Leader.
U Beyers, D Berryman, T Boni, M Pratichetti, K Van Zyl, E Padovani, L Burgess, A Lovotti, A Manici, P Ceccarelli V Bernabo, G Biagi (cpt), J Meyer, J Sarto, A Van Schalkwyk. Replacements, T D’Apice, A De Marchi, E Coria, M Bortolami,G Palazzani, M Visentin, C Canna.