18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
Following back-to-back wins against Welsh sides the Ospreys and Cardiff Blues, there are a few knocks picked up and some injuries sustained within the squad.
David McSharry (groin), Johnny O'Connor (ankle), Dan Parks (hamstring) and Kyle Tonetti (shoulder) all missed out on last Friday's game against Cardiff due to injury. They will continue to be monitored and have not yet been ruled out of team selection.
Winger Tiernan O'Halloran remains unavailable due to the cruciate knee ligament injury he picked up against the Ospreys. The 22-year-old is facing a number of weeks on the sidelines.
Mike McCarthy is unavailable for Connacht this Friday night. The Ireland lock's medial knee ligament injury has progressed well to the point that he is also running and he will be retested at the end of the week to assess his availability for the France game.
Connacht head coach Eric Elwood will assess his options and name his side to face Zebre on Thursday afternoon.
"Three victories in-a-row for us would be key. I can't remember the last time we won three on the bounce," admitted Elwood.
"We have placed a strong focus on this block of four games (during the Six Nations) and our goal is to keep doing what we are doing.
"We've had a good two weeks and it's important for us to build on our performances. We've got to get the detail right. We have to focus on what we are doing not the others, so we will just be worrying about Friday.
"All we can do is win our matches, whatever those above or below us (in the PRO12 table) do is a different matter.
"Away victories are rare and scarce for us, last week we could see a big improvement in our discipline and I'll be looking for more of the same against Zebre.
"We won't be taking the Italians lightly on Friday. They'll be coming here seeing this as a big opportunity so we are under no illusions."