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RaboDirect PRO12 match preview: Zebre v Scarlets
The Scarlets welcome back several Wales internationals for Friday's PRO12 clash with Zebre at Stadio XXV Aprile in Parma.
Zebre have lost all 23 matches they have played this season in all competitions, eight by seven points or less.
The Scarlets have lost their last five away games in all tournaments since beating Cardiff Blues 9-6 at the Arms Park in the PRO12 on December 21.
Scarlets won 22-13 when the two sides met in round eight of this season's PRO12.
Liam Williams moves to the wing as Gareth Owen returns from injury to take up the full-back spot after an impressive run of games earlier this year.
Aaron Shingler starts in the back row alongside experienced colleagues Johnathan Edwards and captain Rob McCusker while Matthew Rees starts at hooker with another set of experienced Scarlets campaigners in the front row - props Phil John and Deacon Manu.
Wales centre Scott Williams is on the bench for some added strike power and Aled Davies get the number nine jersey to start with Owen Williams at fly-half and impressive scrum-half talent Rhodri Williams on the bench.
Zebre: 15 Alberto Bennettin, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Matteo Pratichetti, 12 Giovanbattista Venditti, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Paolo Buso, 9 Alberto Chillon, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Emiliano Caffini, 5 Josh Sole, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 David Ryan, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Andrea Manici, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Luciano Leibson, 19 Michael Van Vuuren, 20 Filippo Cristiano, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Roberto Quartaroli.
Scarlets: 15 Gareth Owen, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Rob McCusker (c) 7 Johnathan Edwards, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Johan Synman, 4 George Earle, 3 Deacon Manu, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Sione Timani, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Scott Williams.
What they said...
Scarlets boss Simon Easterby
"It's been a very positive week back in full training at Parc y Scarlets, with the boost of the international players coming back energised by their victory in the Six Nations and we are now clearly focused as a group on these next five games which we have to win to retain our control on a top four finish," said Easterby.
"During the international window, the players who remained at Parc y Scarlets shown real commitment and we have kept us in a good position. We have to respect all the teams we play now and that includes how we approach our challenge against Zebre on Friday night.
"Zebre may have lost a lot of games this year but have come very close to teams at nearly every point - so we have to be really focused on our job in hand as players and as coaches.
"They will be very competitive and we will not be going out there underestimating what we need to do to get a result."
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Guinness PRO12 Table
|Sunday 21st December|
|16:00||Dragons vs Zebre|
|Friday 26th December|
|14:05||Cardiff Blues vs Dragons|
|17:00||Munster vs Leinster|
|18:45||Ulster vs Connacht|
|Saturday 27th December|
|14:40||Glasgow vs Edinburgh|
|17:15||Ospreys vs Scarlets|
|Sunday 28th December|
|14:00||Zebre vs Treviso|
|Thursday 1st January|
|14:05||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Cardiff Blues|
|17:00||Connacht vs Munster|
|Friday 2nd January|
|19:35||Edinburgh vs Glasgow Warriors|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|14:00||Treviso vs Zebre|
|14:40||Leinster vs Ulster|
|17:05||Scarlets vs Ospreys|
|Friday 9th January|
|19:35||Connacht vs Edinburgh|
|19:35||Glasgow vs Scarlets|
|Saturday 10th January|
|14:40||Cardiff Blues vs Leinster|
|15:00||Zebre vs Munster|
|Sunday 11th January|
|14:00||Treviso vs Ulster|
|16:00||Ospreys vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Wednesday 14th January|
|TBC||Leinster vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|TBC||Scarlets vs Connacht|
|TBC||Edinburgh vs Ospreys|
|TBC||Ulster vs Benetton Treviso|
|TBC||Zebre vs Glasgow|
|TBC||Munster vs Cardiff Blues|
|Saturday 20th December|
|Ospreys 31 - 20 Ulster|
|Glasgow Warriors 21 - 18 Munster|
|Friday 19th December|
|Cardiff Blues 21 - 9 Scarlets|
|Edinburgh 48 - 0 Treviso|
|Leinster 21 - 11 Connacht|
|Sunday 30th November|
|Glasgow Warriors 19 - 15 Dragons|
|Saturday 29th November|
|Connacht 14 - 8 Scarlets|
|Leinster 18 - 12 Ospreys|
|Zebre 18 - 10 Edinburgh|
|Friday 28th November|
|Cardiff Blues 36 - 25 Treviso|
|Munster 21 - 20 Ulster|
|Sunday 23rd November|
|Edinburgh 28 - 13 Cardiff Blues|
|Treviso 24 - 24 Leinster|
|Friday 21st November|
|Ulster 25 - 16 Ospreys|
|Connacht 43 - 3 Zebre|
|Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow Warriors|
|Dragons 12 - 38 Munster|
|Saturday 1st November|
|Ulster 23 - 6 Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Scarlets 28 - 13 Zebre|
|Cardiff Blues 24 - 28 Munster|
|Friday 31st October|
|Ospreys 26 - 11 Connacht|
|Glasgow 17 - 9 Benetton Treviso|
|Leinster 33 - 8 Edinburgh|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com