Tomorrow’s fixture at L’Aquila will be Zebre’s second home game away from the Lanfranchi Stadium in Parma, the other being 22 – 41 loss against Leinster at Reggio Emilia.
Despite claiming Parma as its formal home ground, Zebre lso looks to encompass the entire national territory.
The trip to L’Aquila for this special event therefore falls within the aim of Zebre maintaining a strong link with those places where the love for the game is particularly strong, 9 years on from the terrible heartache of 2009.
The L’Aquila rugby players were deeply affected by the tragic death of their teammate Lorenzo Sebastiani.
L’Aquila Rugby was at the forefront of rescue operations, helping the local population and was awarded the “Spirit of Rugby” award by the World Rugby international federation.
The game will be played for the first time in central Italy in L’Aquila, a city of 70,000 inhabitants, 100 km from Rome.
The capital city of the Abruzzo Region has a long and glorious tradition in the Italian rugby scene.
Rugby has been at the heart of the people of L’Aquila since the ’30s, and the home team has won the Italian championship five times, the last time being in 1994.
L’Aquila lives and breathes rugby and has turned out many great players who have contributed to the history of Italian rugby, for example, Maurizio Zaffiri, Carlo Festuccia and Andrea Masi being worthy of mention, having played in the Six Nations competition.
The Tommaso Fattori stadium has hosted 16 international games of the Italian national team as well as the 2017 Womens’s Six Nations game between Italy and Ireland.
The L’Aquila stadium – named after the former Italian national coach – will be the fifth Italian stadium to host a Guinness PRO14 match after Parma, Reggio Emilia, Treviso and Viadana (MN).
In the stands of the Fattori Stadium there will be a special guest. The head coach of the Italian National team Conor O’Shea will look closely at the Zebre side, who can count on eight Azzurri – six of them in the back line.
Zebre Head Coach Michael Bradley has unveiled the starting line-up on the field against the Dragons.
There will be five changes compared to the XV who played against Leinster last Saturday in Dublin.
Venditti, who was born in Avezzano, a few kilometers from L’Aquila, will start on the wing and is joined in the back three by fullback Minozzi and right-wing Bellini.
Italian international centre Castello, who has recovered from a knee injury suffered during the Six Nations 2018, will pair with Bisegni, while the half back duo will be Azzurri duo Canna and Violi.
In the pack, Meyer will start in the back-row alongside number eight Sisi and the blind-side flanker Sarto. There will be no change in the second row, with captain Biagi partnering Krumov, while in the front row forwards will be Bello, Luss and Lovotti.
Here’s Zebre Rugby Club line-up for Saturday, April 14 match at the Tommaso Fattori Stadium in L’Aquila (Italy) for the 20th round of the Guinness PRO14 against the Welsh side of Dragons. Kick off at 5 pm local time:
15 Matteo Minozzi*
14 Mattia Bellini*
13 Giulio Bisegni
12 Tommaso Castello (Captain)
11 Giovanbattista Venditti*
10 Carlo Canna
9 Marcello Violi*
8 David Sisi
7 Johan Meyer
6 Jacopo Sarto
5 George Biagi
4 Leonard Krumov*
3 Eduardo Bello
2 Luhandre Luus*
1 Andrea Lovotti*
16 Tommaso D’Apice
17 Cruze Ah-Nau
18 Roberto Tenga
19 Valerio Bernabò
20 Andrea De Marchi
21 Guglielmo Palazzani
22 Serafin Bordoli
23 Gabriele Di Giulio*
Coach: Michael Bradley
Not available for selection due to injury: Faialaga Afamasaga, Tommaso Boni*, Dario Chistolini, Oliviero Fabiani, Ciaran Gaffney, Renato Giammarioli*, Andrea Manici*, Maxime Mbandà e Derick Minnie
*Former member of the Italian Rugby Union academy “Ivan Francescato”
Referee: George Clancy (Irish Rugby Football Union)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Correll (Irish Rugby Football Union) and Manuel Bottino (Federazione Italiana Rugby)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Irish Rugby Football Union)
Live tv coverage of the game in Italy on Eurosport 2 and on live streaming on www.eurosportplayer.it. Live text coverage of the game on www.pro14rugby.org and on Zebre Rugby twitter account with the official game hashtag #ZEBvDRA