Three to watch: Zebre Rugby

Charlie Talbot-Smith
29 June 2018

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All the players from the Guinness PRO14 are enjoying a well-earned break this summer.

But the new season is not far over the horizon and to build the anticipation we are focusing on some new faces at each of the 14 clubs that could light up the new campaign.

And this week it is Zebre – who enjoyed one of their best seasons in their history – who have some exciting talent on the rise.

Giovanni Licata

A new signing, if not an unfamiliar face, Giovanni Licata will be full-time at Zebre this season after signing from Fiamme Oro.

The former Italy Under-20s No.8 has already made the step up to international level, and was handed a start in the first Test against Japan this summer.

Capable of playing on the flank or at the base of the scrum, he will be a valuable option in the back row for Zebre, who already have breakthrough star Renato Giammarioli in their ranks.

The 21-year-old powerful Sicilian made seven Guinness PRO14 appearances on loan last season, including scoring a try in their epic win over Ulster.

But now a permanent figure on the roster, Licata will hope to use his powerful 1.91m and more than 100kg physique week in and week out for the Italians in the 2018/19 campaign while also adding to his seven Italy caps.

Giosue Zilocchi

Another man joining Michael Bradley’s charges this season and stepping up from the Eccellenza is Giosue Zilocchi.

The 21-year-old prop is the latest Zebre addition to the front row and will be well known to Italy rugby fans already.

That is because the youngster – who is yet to appear in the Guinness PRO14 in his young career – has already made his international debut.

That came off the bench for Italy out in Japan in their first Test defeat to the Brave Blossoms in Oita.

Standing 6ft 4in tall, the young tighthead has a solid set-piece game and is adding to that with some powerful carrying in the loose.

And after two years in the Italy U20s set-up, the Piacenza-born front rower is more than ready for his step up to senior rugby.

Francois Brummer

Johan Meyer’s move to Zebre in 2015 has proved a real success and the Italian franchise have dipped their toe back into South African waters this off-season.

And their new signing is the 29-year-old fly-half Francois Brummer who will arrive after the Currie Cup has finished.

The stand-off – who can also play full-back – arrives with some real pedigree as a two-time South Africa U20 star who has also represented the Springbok As as recently in 2016 against England Saxons.

Brummer’s arrival provides some real competition in the play-making department for Carlo Canna and his current understudy Maicol Azzolini.

And after spells with the Bulls and Griquas – as well as in Japan more recently – Brummer will certainly be an ever-present when Canna is inevitably called up by Italy in the autumn and the Six Nations.

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