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URC, Round 17 - teams and predictions

FRIDAY PREVIEW: The United Rugby Championship is in for an entertaining conclusion as just six points separate sixth and 10th place in the table.

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In the penultimate round before the play-offs, there are two fixtures on Friday.

Zebre host Scarlets in Italy, while the match of the evening sees Munster travel to Scotland to take on Edinburgh.

The reigning champions are currently third on the table with 58 points and will want to cement their spot in the top four when they face Sean Everitt’s side.

Getting one over a desperate and determined Edinburgh will also boost their chances of a top-two ending.

However, it will be easier said than done as Edinburgh also have a lot at stake. They are seventh with 48 points and a defeat could see them overtaken by Connacht who face Stormers on Saturday.

A win on the other hand will keep their knockout fate in their own hands.

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URC, Round 17 - teams and predictions

Friday is also an emotional occasion for Edinburgh loyal servants Viliame Mata and WP Nel as they run out for what could be their last game at the ground.

Both players will be aiming to help their team secure a play-off berth before they depart this season.

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Ahead of the match, Edinburgh head coach Sean Everitt said: “It will be an electric atmosphere on Friday night with a full house at Hive Stadium. This is a massive game for us and the energy our fans create from teams-out will be crucial in driving us forward from the first whistle.

“The squad have put in a huge shift this season and this match is a chance to solidify everything we’ve worked for. It will also be a special occasion for guys like Bill [Mata] and WP [Nel] who have been tremendous servants to the club for a long time. I know our squad will be going all out to ensure it’s a positive night.

“Munster are a formidable opponent and we’re under no illusions about the challenge we face going up against the reigning URC Champions. However, we have belief and our squad will be fired up playing at home in front of a packed out capital crowd.”

Everitt only made one stage to his starting XV, scrumhalf and co-captain Ben Vellacott is the only change. He came off the bench to score in last weekend’s victory over Zebre Parma – and gets the nod at nine with Ali Price named among the replacements.

Munster suffered a double injury blow. Joey Carbery and veteran Peter O’Mahony are unavailable for selection due to knocks.

Munster boss Graham Rowntree made five personnel changes and two positional switches to the side that beat Connacht last week.

Mike Haley and Antoine Frisch come into the backline as Oli Jager, Fineen Wycherley and Gavin Coombes start in the pack.

Alex Nankivell moves to inside centre and Jack O’Donoghue shifts from no.8 to blindside flank.

It will be a very special occasion for O’Donoghue as he makes his 200th appearance for Munster, becoming the 14th player to achieve the feat.

Having turned 30 in February, O’Donoghue becomes the youngest-ever player to reach the landmark.

All Friday’s teams and predictions are below …

Zebre v Scarlets
(Stadio Lanfranchi, Parma – Kick-off: 20.35; 18.35 GMT; 19.35 Ireland & UK time)

Prediction

@rugby365com:  Scarlets by five points

Teams: 

Zebre Parma: 15 Geronimo Prisciantelli, 14 Jacopo Trulla, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Lorenzo Pani, 10 Giovanni Montemauri, 9 Gonzalo Garcia, 8 Giovanni Licata (Captain), 7 Davide Ruggeri, 6 Giacomo Ferrari, 5 Andrea Zambonin, 4 Leonard Krumov, 3 Muhamed Hasa, 2 Giampietro Ribaldi, 1 Danilo Fischetti
Replacements: 16 Tommaso Di Bartolomeo, 17 Alessio Sanavia, 18 Juan Pitinari, 19 David Sisi, 20 Matteo Canali, 21 Thomas Dominguez, 22 Fetuli Paea, 23 Bautista Stavile

Scarlets: 15 Ioan Nicholas, 14 Tomi Lewis, 13 Johnny Williams, 12 Eddie James, 11 Ryan Conbeer, 10 Ioan Lloyd, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Carwyn Tuipulotu, 7 Dan Davis, 6 Taine Plumtree, 5 Morgan Jones, 4 Alex Craig, 3 Harri O’Connor, 2 Ryan Elias (captain), 1 Kemsley Mathias
Replacements: 16 Shaun Evans, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Sam Wainwright, 19 Jarrod Taylor, 20 Ben Williams, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Sam Costelow, 23 Macs Page

Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Clara Munarini (Italy) and Alberto Falvero (Italy)
TMO: Colin Brett (Scotland)

Edinburgh v Munster
(Edinburgh Stadium, Edinburgh – Kick-off: 19.35; 18.35 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com:  Edinburgh by three points.

Teams: 

Edinburgh: 15 Wes Goosen, 14 Matt Currie, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 James Lang, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Ben Vellacott, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Sam Skinner, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ewan Ashman, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Dave Cherry, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Marshall Sykes, 20 Luke Crosbie, 21 Ali Price, 22 Cammy Scott, 23 Chris Dean

Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Antoine Frisch, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Shane Daly, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 Alex Kendellen, 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Tadhg Beirne (captain), 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Oli Jager, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Jeremy Loughman
Replacements: 16 Eoghan Clarke, 17 Mark Donnelly, 18 John Ryan, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Tom Ahern, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Rory Scannell, 23 Brian Gleeson

Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Ru Campbell (Scotland) and Finlay Brown (Scotland)
TMO: Stu Terheege (England)

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