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Heineken Cup preview: Toulouse v Zebre
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Toulouse host Zebre this Friday in Pool 3 as the new Heineken Cup season gets underway.
The French side are four-time winners of the competition and go into this season's tournament amongst the favourites to lift the trophy.
Despite a mixed start to the Top 14 campaign Toulouse still sit fourth after five wins and four defeats, courtesy of having already claimed seven bonus points. An impressive 28-10 win over Stade Francais means that Guy Noves' side go into the Zebre match full of confidence.
Zebre, however, arrive in France having picked up just one win in five RaboDirect Pro12 matches so far - they lost 30-7 at Newport Gwent Dragons last time out.
Andrea Cavinato's team are huge underdogs and the Italian visitors know it will take a gargantuan effort to overcome Toulouse, especially away from home.
The chances of an upset are slim with Zebre still looking for their first win in the competition and Toulouse unbeaten against Italian opposition.
Noves has a host of French internationals to choose from but has opted to leave Louis Picamoles on the bench. He is joined there by Thierry Dusautoir, who will hope to make his return from injury at some stage in proceedings.
"The goal is to get the best in this competition and the best course would be to take five points. But we also have to beware of this team who imposed themselves in Cardiff," backs coach Jean-Baptiste Elissalde told the ERC website.
Mauro Bergamasco starts for Zebre with the Italy international's experience likely to be key if the away team are to cause a shock.
George Biagi has failed to recover from an ankle injury though, meaning that Michael Van Vuren starts in the second row, whilst no 8 Samuela Vunisa makes his Heineken Cup debut.
There is also a start for Giulio Toniolatti on the wing with Leonardo Sarto ruled out through injury.
Toulouse: 15 Clement Poitrenaud, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Yann David, 11 Maxime Medard, 10 Jean-Pascal Barraque 9 Sebastien Bezy; 1 Guthro Steenkamp, 2 Christopher Tolofua, 3 Yohan Montes, 4 Romain Millo-Chluski, 5 Iosefa Tekori, 6 Gregory Lamboley, 7 Yannick Nyanga (c), 8 Gillian Galan.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Census Johnston, 19 Louis Picamoles, 20 Patricio Albacate, 21 Jean-Marc Doussain, 22 Hosea Gear, 23 Thierry Dusautoir.
Zebre: 15 Ruggero Trevisan, 14 Giulio Toniolatti, 13 Kameli Ratuvou, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Dion Berryman, 10 Tommaso Iannone, 9 Brendon Leonard; 1 Salvatore Perugini, 2 Davide Giazzon, 3 Carlo Fazzari, 4 Michael Van Vuren, 5 Marco Bortolami (c), 6 Mauro Bergamasco, 7 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 8 Samuela Vunisa.
Replacements: 16. Tommaso D'Apice, 17. Matias Aguero, 18. Dario Chistolini, 19. Emiliano Caffini, 20. Filippo Cristiano, 21. Alberto Chillon, 22. Luciano Orquera, 23. Roberto Quartaroli.
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