Second plays bottom in Conference A on Saturday when Glasgow Warriors will look to continue their winning run in the Guinness PRO14 with a trip to Italian outfit Zebre.
The Scottish visitors are on a run of three victories on the bounce and are closing in on a Final Series place, while Zebre are without a win in the Guinness PRO14 since October.
What’s at stake?
Glasgow Warriors are looking to keep the pressure up on Munster at the top of the conference, with just one point separating the two sides going into Round 17.
Dave Rennie’s men have been scoring for fun in recent weeks, putting more than 80 points past their last two opponents combined – totting up a 43-17 win over Connacht and a 38-34 triumph at Cardiff Blues.
The omens are good for the visitors too as Glasgow beat Zebre 36-8 at home in October and have never lost to the Italian side since they joined the Guinness PRO14 in the 2012-13 season.
But Zebre are boosted by the return of a number of their internationals and will be hoping to start picking up some ground on Toyota Cheetahs – 18 points above them in the conference.
Team news (Zebre)
Zebre have made six changes to the side that were beaten by Ulster last time out in the Guinness PRO14 after being able to call on a number of their returning Italian internationals.
With the Guinness Six Nations on another break this weekend, Azzurri stars David Sisi, Jimmy Tuivaiti and Tommaso Castello have all been recalled to the starting XV.
In total, there are seven internationals in the matchday 23 with Giulio Bisegni, Carlo Canna and Fabiani also starting, while scrum-half Guglielmo Palazzani is on the bench.
Team news (Glasgow Warriors)
Adam Hastings starts at fly-half for Glasgow Warriors after returning from Scotland duty while Zander Fagerson is also back to start alongside Oli Kebble and George Turner in the front row.
Robbie Nairn is rewarded for his two tries against Connacht with a place in the starting XV, where he will join Ruaridh Jackson and Rory Hughes in the back three.
It will be Jackson’s 150th Warriors appearance against Zebre, the 31-year-old becoming the 12th player to reach the milestone, with Kyle Steyn shifting from wing to centre to partner Stafford McDowall.
— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) March 1, 2019
Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie said: “It’s a great occasion for Jacko and his family. His contribution since re-joining can’t be praised enough and he’s a hugely popular member of the group. Hopefully, we can get a result to mark the occasion for him.
“We were pleased to get the win against Connacht and did some things really well on the night.
“The challenge now is to improve on that and we’re going to need to as trips to Italy are extremely challenging, as we learned in January.”
Key battle – Adam Hastings v Carlo Canna
Adam Hastings has found his game time limited for Scotland during the Guinness Six Nations so far, with the talented young fly-half restricted to a couple of appearances off the bench.
So he will be itching to reaffirm his credentials for the final two rounds of the Championship by continuing his excellent club form in the No.10 shirt for Glasgow Warriors.
His opposite number on Saturday, Carlo Canna, has not fared much better for Italy but his extra experience could prove crucial as he looks to orchestrate the Zebre attack.
Key stat: Zebre Rugby have lost their last nine Guinness PRO14 encounters since beating Edinburgh in Parma in October.
Did you know? Glasgow’s only two defeats in the Guinness PRO14 on visits to Italy were both on trips to Treviso – in April 2011 and January 2019.
Zebre: Francois Brummer, Gabriele Di Giulio, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Castello, James Elliott, Carlo Canna, Joshua Renton, Renato Giammarioli, Jimmy Tuivaiti, James Brown, David Sisi, Samuele Ortis, Roberto Tenga, Oliviero Fabiani, Daniele Rimpelli
Replacements: Massimo Ceciliani, Danilo Fischetti, Matteo Nocera, Apisai Tauyavuca, Iacopo Bianchi, Guglielmo Palazzani, Tommaso Boni, Paula Balekana
Glasgow Warriors: Ruaridh Jackson, Robbie Nairn, Kyle Steyn, Stafford McDowall, Rory Hughes, Adam Hastings, Nick Frisby, Oli Kebble, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Tim Swinson, Scott Cummings, Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro, Matt Fagerson
Replacements: Grant Stewart, Alex Allan, D’Arcy Rae, Bruce Flockhart, Adam Ashe, Niko Matawalu, Brandon Thomson, Paddy Kelly
TV: At Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma, at 5.15pm (UK time). Live on DAZN and Premier Sports.
Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU)
Assistant referees: Johnny Erskine (IRFU), Luca Trentin (FIR)
TMO: Stefano Roscini (FIR)
A first-half blitz from Glasgow Warriors saw them hit the top of Conference A as they notched up a 42-10 win over Zebre in Parma.
Matt Fagerson ran in a pair of tries, with Ruaridh Jackson getting his name on the score-sheet on his 150th game for the Scottish side.
An encouraging second 40 from the Italians saw Tommaso Castello cross, but they had left themselves too much to do as the Warriors saw out proceedings in relative comfort.
Carlo Canna kicked the hosts into an early lead but from the restart it was the Warriors who recovered from Adam Hastings’ kick, eventually setting up Matt Fagerson to score from a powerful drive.
And just as Zebre looked to build up some momentum with the ball in hand, Warriors skipper Chris Fusaro stole in behind an unmanned ruck to nick the ball and take it 60m uncontested for a try.
They made it three when a confidently won line-out saw Stafford McDowall insouciantly brushing past a couple of tacklers while Zebre anticipated a maul, forging a path to his first score in a Glasgow shirt.
Jackson sealed the bonus point for the visitors on his landmark appearance for the side, latching onto Adam Hastings’ deft chip through as he juggled a favourable bounce to dot down with glee.
Fagerson doubled up on the half hour, Oli Kebble hopping but not falling with Zebre defenders wrapped round his legs, staying on his feet just long enough to dish an offload to the 20-year-old who charged through a gap to cross.
Half time came and went, and when Canna was shown yellow at the start of the second 40, the Warriors were once again in the ascendancy, Tim Swinson carrying at the back of a line-out maul to crash over down the left.
The hosts got on the board when captain Castello wriggled past Scott Cummings after Zebre had built up the phases and punched a hole in the Warriors defence, the centre taking advantage to cross.
After good Zebre pressure, Canna saw red late when he was on the wrong end of a late D’arcy Rae tackle before kicking out in retaliation and the hosts had their wings clipped, but fought to the death nonetheless.