Munster and IRFU defend selection of Grobler
Gerbrandt Grobler is set to make his Munster debut tonight as they take on Michael Bradley's Zebre at Thomond Park.
Munster have been criticised for signing a player who had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, and after a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to injury, the South African could make his debut from the bench.
Munster took the unusual step of releasing a statement on Grobler (pictured) to coincide with naming their team yesterday and they reiterated their support for the second-row.
"In relation to Gerbrandt Grobler's selection for the province, Munster Rugby and the IRFU wish to reiterate that Gerbrandt, as a member of the Munster squad and living by our values, will continue to be considered for selection during his time with the province, once deemed fit," said a statement from Munster and the IRFU.
"While some hold the view that rugby should provide no road back for those that have taken a banned substance in the past, it would not be within the spirit and values of rugby to turn its back on every person that ever made a bad decision, having made restitution.
"Irish Rugby is recognised as operating one of the most stringent testing environments of any rugby nation with a zero tolerance approach to doping in the sport. The province and Irish Rugby are fully supportive of all WADA and World Rugby anti-doping policies.
"Gerbrandt Grobler served a two-year ban from rugby and returned to play for Racing 92 in November 2016 as per the process set out by World Rugby."
Johann van Graan has made 12 changes to the side that defeated Castres in the Champions Cup a fortnight ago, with Simon Zebo, Jean Kleyn and captain Billy Holland retaining their places.
Munster have won all 11 league meetings between the sides and have not posted fewer than 29 points in the five home wins over the Italians.
Last year they won 49-5, the season before it was 47-0. Zebre have not scored more than eight points in any of their five visits to Munster.
"You start at zero, you respect each team. Rugby is a very funny game," said Van Graan when asked if he expected a bonus-point win.
"You should focus on yourself, so we prepare the same for Zebre as we do for any team. It is a game for 80 minutes, a different ball, a different referee, so obviously we want to make some improvements."
Munster - S Zebo; D Sweetnam, S Arnold, D Goggin, A Wootton; JJ Hanrahan, D Williams; J Cronin, N Scannell, B Scott; J Kleyn, B Holland (C); J O'Donoghue, C Oliver, R Copeland. Reps: K O'Byrne, J Loughman, J Ryan, G Grobler, D O'Callaghan, J Poland, I Keatley, R Scannell.
Zebre - C Gaffney, G Di Giulio, G Bisegni, F Afamasaga, G Venditti, S Bordoli, G Palazzani, C Ah-Nau, T D'Apice, E Bello, D Sisi, G Biagi (cap), R Giammarioli, J Meyer, J Tuivaiti. Reps: L Luus, A De Marchi, R Tenga, L Krumow, D Minnie, R Raffaele, M, Azzolini, R Parata
- Munster v Zebre, Live TG4, 7.35