Munster and the IRFU have reiterated their support for Gerbrandt Grobler as the forward gets ready for his first senior appearance for the province.

The South African served a two-year ban from rugby after admitting to taking a banned substance in his home country.

The second rower has been named on the bench for Munster’s Guinness Pro14 clash with Zebre at Thomond Park tomorrow.

Previously the lock had been at the centre of a controversy with both Munster Rugby and the IRFU having to defend their decision to employ the 26-year-old, who admitted to and served a two-year ban for doping with the anabolic steroid Drostanolone in South Africa in 2015. 

A joint statement from the province and the sport’s governing body read: "In relation to Gerbrandt Grobler’s selection for the province, Munster Rugby and the IRFU wish to reiterate that Gerbrandt, as a member of the Munster squad and living by our values, will continue to be considered for selection during his time with the province, once deemed fit.
"While some hold the view that rugby should provide no road-back for those that have taken a banned substance in the past, it would not be within the spirit and values of rugby to turn its back on every person that ever made a bad decision, having made restitution.
"Irish Rugby is recognised as operating one of the most stringent testing environments of any rugby nation with a zero-tolerance approach to doping in the sport. 

"The province and Irish Rugby are fully supportive of all WADA and World Rugby anti-doping policies.
"Gerbrandt Grobler served a two-year ban from rugby and returned to play for Racing 92 in November 2016 as per the process set out by World Rugby."

There are 12 changes to the starting XV that overcame Castres Olympique 48-3 in the Champions Cup last time out with captain Billy Holland maintaining his place along with Simon Zebo and Jean Kleyn.

Munster: Simon Zebo; Darren Sweetnam, Sammy Arnold, Dan Goggin, Alex Wootton; JJ Hanrahan, Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, Brian Scott; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland (capt); Jack O'Donoghue, Conor Oliver, Robin Copeland.

Replacements: Kevin O'Byrne, Jeremy Loughman, John Ryan, Gerbrandt Grobler, Dave O'Callaghan, John Poland, Ian Keatley, Rory Scannell.

Follow our live blog of Ireland v Italy (2.15pm kick-off) on RTÉ Online and the RTÉ News Now App, or listen to commentary from Michael Corcoran and Donal Lenihan on RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday Sport.