Heineken Cup preview: Connacht and Zebre look to finish on a high

Last Updated: 18/01/13 7:13pm

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Connacht and Zebre will be playing for pride when the two teams face each other in their Heineken Cup clash at the Sportsground on Friday.

Both clubs cannot qualify for either the Heineken Cup or Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals, however they will be looking to end their European campaign on a high.

Zebre will be determined to come away with a win from Galway as they are still looking for their first victory in all comptetitions.

However, Connacht - playing in only their second season in European rugby's premier tournament - will be favourites at home. The Irish province will be searching for their third win of this year's campaign.

Connacht edged the Italians 19-10 in the opening game the last time these two sides met.

Following last week's defeat to pool leaders Harlequins, Connacht have made three changes to the starting XV.

Fly-half Dan Parks, who missed last week's game due to injury, returns, joining Kieran Marmion in the half-back slots.

There are no further changes to the back line with Robbie Henshaw, who received a call-up to the extended Ireland squad on Thursday, named at full-back. Also called up to train with the national squad next week was Dave McSharry, who starts at number 13 alongside Eoin Griffin.

Fetu'u Vainikolo is named at number 11 with Tiernan O'Halloran, who is set to earn his 50th cap for the province, starting on the right wing.

Up front, Denis Buckley, rested this week due to injury, makes way for Brett Wilkinson at Loosehead Prop.

With George Naoupu still side-lined, Andrew Browne will move to the Number 8 position while Mick Kearney will start at Blindside Flanker.

Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Andrew Browne, 7 Johnny O'Connor, 6 Mick Kearney, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Nathan White, 2 Jason Harris Wright,1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements:16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 JP Cooney, 18 Ronan Loughney, 19 Dave Gannon, 20 Eoghan Grace, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Danie Poolman

Zebre: 15 Tito Tebaldi, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Roberto Quartaroli, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Ruggero Trevisan, 10 Daniel Halangahu, 9 Alberto Chillon, 8 Filippo Ferrarini, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Emiliano Caffini, 5 Josh Sole, 4 Mike Van Vuren, 3 Luca Redolfini, 2 Davide Giazzon, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 David Ryan, 19 Nicola Belardo, 20 Andrea Manici, 21 Luca Martinelli, 22 Alberto Chiesa, 23 Samuele Pace.

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