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Elwood seeks solid set-piece in Zebre test

Stadio XXV Aprile will this evening become the 36th different ground, and the third in Italy, to host a game in the history of the Celtic League.

Connacht have conspired to lose on most of them over the last decade and coach Eric Elwood is demanding that his side's set-piece underpin the launch of at least one unbeaten record.

"Zebre, like us, didn't have a great opening," said Elwood of the newly-created franchise's 37-6 implosion in Wales against the Dragons. Connacht, meanwhile, slumped to defeat against Cardiff in Galway.

"But I've watched them in their pre-season games against two quality sides, Northampton and Perpignan.

"They are a completely new team in their attack and it will definitely be a challenge for us as the first visitors.

"On Saturday, we weren't tested too much on the defence side of things as the weather wasn't conducive but certainly Zebre will ask questions of our defence.

"We had a lot of dominance in the scrum against the Blues. However, if we're going to have that dominance in the set-piece we have to make it pay.

"But this is an area of strength we will want to bring forward to this week when we meet Zebre."

Despite still being without Dan Parks, Elwood's optimism that his side can maintain the better moments of last week's defeat is reflected in an unchanged side, with only two changes on the bench, Nathan White taking the place of Finlay Bealham and Frank Murphy stepping in for Dave Moore.

Connacht's away form remains desperately poor in this competition and, aside from their opening-day success last year, their only other win on the road last term came in Rodney Parade against the Dragons in March.

This should be the perfect opportunity for Elwood's men to make amends for last week's unacceptable opening-day reverse.

Verdict: Connacht

Zebre -- S Sinoti; G Venditti, A Benettin, G Garcia (capt), S Pace; L Orquera, A Chillon; S Perugini, C Festuccia, D Ryan; Q Geldenhuys, J Sole; F Cristiano, M Bergamsco, A van Schalkwyk. Reps: D Giazzon, A de Marchi, L Redolfini, E Caffini, N Belardo, T Tebaldi, A Chiesa, R Trevisan.

Connacht -- G Duffy (capt); T O'Halloran, E Griffin, M Fifita, F Vainikolo; M Nikora, K Marmion; D Buckley, E Reynecke, R Loughney, M Swift, M McCarthy, J Muldoon, J O'Connor, G Naoupu. Reps: A Flavin, R Ah You, N White, D Gannon, W Faloon, F Murphy, M Jarvis, R Henshaw.

Ref -- I Davies (Wales)

Zebre v Connacht,

Second half Live, TG4, 7.0

Irish Independent