New boss ready to cast an eye over troops as Munster go in search of Italian win
Johann van Graan will take full control of Munster on Monday next, but he will be keeping a close eye on his new troops against Zebre tomorrow.
The South African coach has handed control of team affairs to his assistants Felix Jones and Jerry Flannery for this week, but the new head coach will assume control once the team arrive home on Monday.
With so many of their squad still on international duty and a few key personnel injured, this is a far from full-strength Munster side, and Flannery expects a significant test from the Italians, who are coached by former Munster player Michael Bradley.
"I think Zebre's style of play has changed dramatically," Flannery said.
"They used to be quite a one-off team, very direct in terms of their set-piece.
"They put an awful lot of weight on their set-piece, on their lineout, their scrum.
"When I look at them now, they didn't really move the ball much before but now they are moving the ball, playing with an awful lot of width. I have been impressed with what Brads has done there," said Flannery.
Ex-Racing 92 scrum-half James Hart will make his first start for the province in place of the injured Duncan Williams, which means youngster Jack Stafford could make his debut in Parma.
With Chris Farrell away on international duty for Ireland against Argentina, Sam Arnold is promoted from the replacements bench.
Having Simon Zebo to call upon is a huge boost for the new Munster coach, and Flannery has been impressed with his attitude since being excluded from Joe Schmidt's Ireland squad as a result of his impending move to France.
"It's tough on Simon missing out on Ireland but he has made that decision.
"He's been the same Zeebs he's always been, no moping, brought good energy to training.
"You don't worry about the effort or the enthusiasm in these weeks when we lose the internationals because the guys there say they have to step up to the mark and make an impression.
"But having a bit of experience and a guy like Zeebs is a benefit to us because it's what we lose when the guys go to Ireland."
Munster: S Zebo; D Sweetnam, S Arnold, R Scannell, A Wootton; JJ Hanrahan, J Hart; L O'Connor, R Marshall, S Archer; J Kleyn, B Holland; J O'Donoghue, C Cloete, R Copeland. Reps: K O'Byrne, B Scott, C Parker, D O'Shea, S O'Connor, J Stafford, B Johnston, C Nash.