Tuesday 6 December 2016

Zebo and Earls back as Reds seek bonus

Published 25/03/2016 | 02:30

Simon Zebo will be among the stars Anthony Foley welcomes back from Ireland duty. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters
Simon Zebo will be among the stars Anthony Foley welcomes back from Ireland duty. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

After last weekend's latest in what is becoming a long line of hiccups this season, Anthony Foley will surely be glad to see the back of the Six Nations.

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Of the five Pro12 games that Munster played during the international window, they lost three with the two wins coming (narrowly) against bottom side Treviso as well as a Dragons outfit languishing third from bottom.

It's been a season to forget for Munster and their remaining five games will determine if they are playing Champions Cup rugby next season. It was once inconceivable to imagine Munster not playing in Europe's premier competition but their inconsistencies have left them with a battle on their hands.

Ordinarily, Zebre arriving in Thomond would be seen as the ideal game to get back on track and although it still should be, there will be lingering doubts in the players' heads after another defeat to Cardiff last time out.

Zebre are embroiled in a battle of their own with Treviso as they look to book their Champions Cup place but they have won just four league games.

Foley can at least welcome Donnacha Ryan, Tommy O'Donnell, Keith Earls and Simon Zebo back into the starting XV, while Conor Murray and CJ Stander are named amongst the replacements. Francis Saili misses out with a shoulder problem however.

Munster desperately need inspiration from somewhere and Foley will be hoping that it comes from his international contingent.

"I suppose it's about making sure that we focus on one game at a time," Foley said cautiously.

"We've got a massive game on Friday night and I don't think as a coaching and playing group we can look beyond that. It's about making sure that we can execute and deliver a performance that can get us the right result against a very good Italian side."

Munster barely scraped passed Zebre in January and with a trip to the Aviva to come next, building momentum this evening will be crucial to ensuring that they are playing amongst Europe's elite next season.

Verdict: Munster

Munster - S Zebo; D Sweetnam, K Earls, R Scannell, R O'Mahony; J Holland, T O'Leary; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, S Archer; D Ryan, B Holland (capt); D O'Callaghan, T O'Donnell, J O'Donoghue. Reps: M Sherry, J Cronin, M Sagario, D Foley, CJ Stander, C Murray, I Keatley, D Johnston.

Zebre - K van Zyl; L Sarto, G Bisegni, T Boni, G Toniolatti; K Haimona, G Palazzani; G Roan, O Fabiani, D Chistolini; Q Geldenhuys (capt), V Bernabo; J Cook, F Ruzza, J Meyer. Reps: B Postiglioni, D De Marchi, P Ceccarelli, G Koegelenberg, E Caffini, L Burgess, U Beyers, M Pratichetti.

REF - D Phillips (IRFU)

Munster v Zebre,

Live, TG4, 7.0

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