It will be the fouth seasonal encounter between the two sides who also met four time last season, being drawn into the same Heineken Cup pool over the last two campaigns. Zebre and Connacht are separated in the RaboDirect PRO12 table by only three points in a chart which includes six sides in only 10 points: from the 24 of the Dragons to the 14 of the italian franchise based in Parma.
Sunday's game is the third one scheduled during the 2014 Six Nations window, with Zebre honoured to have ten players capped by Italy for tomorrow clash against Scotland in the third round. Eight of them are listed into the Azzurri team sheet while three of them -Geldenhuys, Garcia and Sarto- will start for the Italian national team ,awaited by a sold out Olympic Stadium in Rome.
In the backs, the coaching staff selected a line strengthened by the international experience of players such the former All Black Leonard, the Fijian centre Ratuvou and winger Venditti, who will earn his second consecutive start after his injury, that has ruled him out from the first rounds of the Six Nations.
At fly-half will play a permit player from Lazio Rugby who will earn his Zebre debut, a player who has 73 games in the competition: Troy Nathan. The Auckland born utility back played four years for the Galway's franchise under the Eric Elwood coaching direction from 2007 to 2011 being capped for the black and green side 56 times.
Zebre forwards see the return of experienced prop Perugini who missed last four official games because of a neck injury, while flanker Van Schalkwyk is confirmed as the white & black skipper.
On the bench will sit three other permit players from main italian league Eccellenza: Giovanchelli, Bisegni and Saccardo. While the first two gained their debut two weeks ago in Parma against Leinster, the Cavalieri Prato flanker could find his first ever cap in the competition this weekend.
Here's Zebre line-up for Sunday 23 February 2014 at Stadio XXV Aprile in Parma (Italy) for the 15nd round of the RaboDirect PRO12 against Connacht Rugby. Kick off at 5.30 pm local time:
15 Ruggero TREVISAN*
14 Dion BERRYMAN
13 Kameli RATUVOU
12 Roberto QUARTAROLI*
11 Giovanbattista VENDITTI*
10 Troy NATHAN
9 Brendon LEONARD
8 Samuela VUNISA
7 Andries VAN SCHALKWYK (cap)
6 Emiliano CAFFINI*
5 George BIAGI
4 Michael VAN VUREN
3 Dario CHISTOLINI
2 Tommaso D'APICE*
1 Salvatore PERUGINI
16 Lorenzo GIOVANCHELLI
17 Andrea DE MARCHI
18 Luca REDOLFINI
19 Filippo CAZZOLA*
20 Alberto SACCARDO
21 Alberto CHILLON*
22 Giulio BISEGNI
23 Giulio TONIOLATTI
Not available for selection due to injury: Paolo BUSO, Nicola CATTINA, Filippo CRISTIANO, Filippo FERRARINI*, Andrea MANICI*, , Matteo PRATICHETTI.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales Rugby Union) The Welsh referee is at his 14th direction in the RaboDirect PRO12, third time with Zebre overall.
Assistant Referees: (Both Federazione Italiana Rugby)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Federazione Italiana Rugby)
Live tv coverage in Italy on Mediaset Italia 2. Live score text coverage on www.rabodirectpro12.com/live