Zebre can make this Guinness PRO14 season their most successful since joining the Championship when they host Ospreys at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi on Saturday.
After coming back from a 26-10 half-time deficit to defeat the Dragons 34-32 in L’Aquila last week, Zebre return to their regular home in Parma.
Ospreys are set for a European Champions Cup play-off place, but will want to bounce back from their 8-0 defeat to Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium last Friday.
What’s at stake?
Should Zebre emerge victorious, it would be their sixth win of the season, which would set a new record of victories in a single Guinness PRO14 season for them.
In what is a rearranged Round 17 fixture, Ospreys already have fifth-place in Conference A secured so will be looking to use their remaining two games to find some momentum for their Champions Cup play-offs.
Two tries from Keelan Giles helped the Welsh region win the reverse fixture between the two sides 22-13 at the Liberty Stadium in the opening round of the season.
Team news (Zebre)
Head coach Michael Bradley has made just two changes from the team that defeated the Dragons and they both come in the front row.
Hooker Oliviero Fabiani has replaced Luhandre Luus in the line-up and he’ll be packing down alongside tighthead Dario Chistolini comes in for Eduardo Bello.
South African back-row forward Derick Minnie and Italy centre Edoardo Padovani have both been named on the bench after missing last week.
Team news (Ospreys)
In what is a much-changed line-up, only lock Adam Beard and No.8 Sam Cross have retained their places from last week’s defeat at Ulster.
James Hook captains the side from full-back, while Georgian lock Giorgi Nemsadze and young winger Dylan Moss are making their debuts for the region and Matthew Aubrey and Ifan Phillips their first PRO14 starts.
Youngsters Dewi Lake and Matthew Todd will make their Ospreys bow if they come off the bench and should any of James Ratti, Kieran Williams or Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler do so, it will be their first involvement in the PRO14.
Ospreys interim head coach Allen Clarke: “We know that we’ve got a Champions Cup play-off to look forward to in May but the focus is first and foremost on this weekend and what will be a difficult challenge against Zebre.
“We’ve taken the opportunity to freshen things up a bit but the 23 that we’ve been selected is, we believe, an exciting line-up that can travel to Parma and deliver a performance of the standard expected of an Ospreys team.
“We have the utmost respect for our opposition, who have beaten the Dragons and lost by just the three against Cardiff Blues in their most recent home games.”
Key battle – Matteo Minozzi v James Hook
Matteo Minozzi had a breakthrough Six Nations with Italy and he has carried on his international form since his return to the Zebre ranks.
The 21-year-old was a great counter-attacking threat against the Dragons last week, gaining 102 metres during the match, and the hosts will need his elusive running again.
His opposite number Hook is the most experienced member of the Ospreys’ line-up and it is vital the former Wales international keeps a cool head in guiding the younger faces around him.
Key fact: Zebre’s only win against Ospreys in 11 games in the Guinness PRO14 came in May 2014.
Did you know? Ospreys have only won once away from home in Guinness PRO14 since March 2017, at the Dragons on New Year’s Eve.
Zebre: Matteo Minozzi, Mattia Bellini, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Castello, Giovanbattista Venditti, Carlo Canna, Marcello Violi, Andrea Lovotti, Oliviero Fabiani, Dario Chistolini, Leonard Krumov, George Biagi, Jacopo Sarto, Johan Meyer, David Sisi
Replacements: Luhandre Luus, Cruze Ah-Nau, Eduardo Bello, Valerio Bernabo, Derick Minnie, Guglielmo Palazzani, Edoardo Padovani, Gabriele Di Giulio
Ospreys: James Hook, Dewi Cross, Joe Thomas, Luke Price, Dylan Moss, Sam Davies, Matthew Aubrey, Rhodri Jones, Ifan Phillips, Ma’afu Fia, Lloyd Ashley, Adam Beard, Giorgi Nemsadze, Guy Mercer, Sam Cross
Replacements: Dewi Lake, Gareth Thomas, Alex Jeffries, Matthew Dodd, James Ratti, Reuben Morgan-Williams, Kieran Williams, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler
TV: Live on Eurosport
Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Prices start at just €35 at www.ticketmaster.ie with tickets available to suit every experience.
To book hospitality visit: https://www.pro14rugby.org/hospitality
For Travel packages visit: https://www.pro14rugby.org/travel-packages
For Fanzone & Dublin 7s visit: http://www.dublin7sfestival.ie
A sublime Mattia Bellini hat-trick fired Zebre to victory over Ospreys and back-to-back Guinness PRO14 wins for the second this season.
In a rearranged Round 17 fixture, Michael Bradley’s side rose to the occasion emphatically, with 24-year-old Bellini going over three times to help his team follow up their dramatic 34-32 win over the Dragons last time out.
George Biagi got Zebre motoring with eight minutes on the clock, dotting down to score as the hosts drove over the line following a lineout.
Bellini then came to the fore as the hosts scored two more unconverted tries in the space of three minutes, with the winger bagging both.
First, he crashed over the in the corner and then, he turned on the afterburners to hunt down Giulio Bisegni’s boot forward, Bellini blazing a trail to beat James Hook to the ball before thundering over the line.
The Zebre stampede continued apace and with 23 minutes gone, the Italians were 22-0 up, Bisegni going over to earn his team a bonus point after Bisegni had been halted by the Ospreys defence, Carlo Canna adding the extras.
Just past the half-hour mark, the visitors hit back through Sam Cross, who dotted down from a quickly-taken penalty, Sam Davies converting.
Dylan Moss then thought he had chipped away at the deficit even further before half-time but his score was ruled out by the TMO, with the winger’s foot adjudged to have been pushed into touch as he was challenged by Canna.
Once the action resumed, a 55th-minute Canna penalty made it 25-7, a scoreline that stood right up until Bellini burst into life from the scrum and charged his way over the line for a third time with 14 minutes to go.
As the clock counted down, the scoreboard continued to tick over, with Gabriele Di Giulio going over eight minutes from time before Ospreys’ Reuben Morgan-Williams hit straight back, Canna and Davies’ converting their sides’ respective scores.
However, Zebre had done more than enough to claim maximum points.