Cardiff Blues welcome Zebre to BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on Friday with the visitors desperate for a win to move them back above Italian rivals Benetton Treviso.
Zebre secured back-to-back wins at the start of April but Treviso’s 21-6 win over Edinburgh last week moved them up back up to 11th place.
What’s at stake?
A win for Zebre in Wales could move them above Treviso and Newport Gwent Dragons up to tenth in the Guinness PRO12 table.
The ninth-placed Dragons face Edinburgh, who are just one spot above them, on Friday night while Treviso must wait until Saturday for their chance.
The Blues meanwhile cannot catch sixth-placed Glasgow Warriors even with two bonus point wins in their last two games and have guaranteed a European play-off spot.
They’ll be looking to gather momentum ahead of that clash and give the fans something to shout about in their last home game of the season before facing the Dragons next weekend.
Cardiff Blues team news
Danny Wilson has made a trio of changes to the XV that beat the Ospreys 35-17 on Judgement Day with Aled Summerhill, Tomos Williams and Rhys Gill all starting.
Summerhill starts on the wing with Rhun Williams switching to full-back as Matthew Morgan drops to the replacements bench.
Loosehead prop Gill replaces Gethin Jenkins after he failed to recover from minor knee stiffness in time for the Friday night game.
Zebre team news
Italian internationals Carlo Canna and Edoardo Padovani return to the Zebre backline while the Azzurri pair of Pietro Ceccarelli and Andrea Lovotti start in the front row.
Tommaso D’Apice, Joshua Furno and Andries Van Schalkwyk are all named on the bench as they continue their respective returns from injury.
Van Schalkwyk will be hoping for a first appearance for his club in three months after picking up a knock during the last RBS 6 Nations game.
Tommaso captains the Zebre team for the first time in his career on his 24th appearance.
Finishing in their current seventh place in the Guinness PRO12 is the target for Cardiff Blues coach Danny Wilson as they prepare for their final two games.
Wilson said: “We’re in that play-off situation, we currently sit seventh and our goal has to be finishing seventh.
“We have two fixtures remaining and are currently one point above Connacht. Whoever we then play, we play. It leans towards going to France, which will be another huge challenge but one we will relish and look forward to.
“But for me it is about winning every game you are confronted with. We have Zebre in our last game at home, which we need and want to win, and then Dragons away in a derby, which we certainly want to win.
“We finished seventh last year but couldn’t get out of our European group, if we finish seventh this year having reached a European quarter-final, we have picked up more wins and are slowly moving in the direction we need to be.”
Injured Lions captain Sam Warburton remains on the sidelines as Cardiff Blues’ campaign draws to a close but there are several who might be called upon as replacements in case of injuries.
Winger Alex Cuthbert could demonstrate his return to form and remind Warren Gatland of his abilities on the fast artificial surface in Cardiff.
Key battle: Gareth Anscombe v Carlo Canna
The young Italian fly-half will be looking to get his powerful pack in the right areas of the field against Anscombe.
Canna is the Italians’ leading points scorer so far this season with 83 points while Anscombe is four away from a century.
The Welsh fly-half scored a try and five conversions in Cardiff Blues’ win at Judgement Day so is in form and will be looking to have a major impact on the game.
The Blues have won just two of their last seven encounters in the Championship at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.
Did you know?
Zebre have won two of their last three fixtures, but both of those matches were played at home in Parma. On the road Zebre’s only victory this season came on a visit to Edinburgh in October.
Cardiff Blues top points scorer: Steve Shingler 128pts. Top try scorer: Tom James 6
Zebre top points scorer: Carlo Canna 83pts. Top try scorers: Dries van Schalkwyk & Giovanbattista Venditti 4
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 9, Blues won 6, Zebre won 3.
At BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park, 7.05pm – Live on BBC Wales
Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU, 5th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Correll (IRFU), Ben Whitehouse (WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Paul Thomas (WRU)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (IFRU)
The Guinness PRO12 Final takes place on May 27 at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Fans can guarantee their place by booking their tickets via www.ticketmaster.ie
Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final
Gareth Anscombe scored 20 points as Cardiff Blues beat Italian side Zebre 30-24 in a thrilling Guinness PRO12 encounter, as the Italian side picked up a late bonus point.
Both sides opened up in the second half, with some sublime pieces of skill – but Anscombe was a cut above with both boot and ball-in-hand as Cardiff tightened their grip on seventh place.
Tomos Williams was also supreme for Cardiff as he scored, while Aled Summerhill scored one of the Blues’ best tries of the season.
Cardiff finish their campaign against Newport Gwent Dragons next week, while Zebre host Benetton Treviso – in a contest that will decide who finishes 12th in the table.
Cardiff Blues were without veteran skipper Gethin Jenkins, who was ruled out through injury – with fellow Wales international Rhys Gill taking over in the pack.
Summerhill returned to start on the wing, while Tomos Williams and also starting in place of Lloyd Williams.
It was a special day for Zebre centre Tommaso Castello – who led his side for the first time.
But Castello and his team spent much of the first ten minutes on the back foot, with Alex Cuthbert and Willis Halaholo threatening – while Anscombe booted over their first points of the night with a penalty.
Zebre struggled for territory and with the Blues pouncing on them at every breakdown, more penalties seemed inevitable when Anscombe successfully kicked the second of the night.
And the fly-half scored the opening try of the match mid-way through the first half as a superb pass from Ellis Jenkins and Nick Williams released him in the corner.
Anscombe may have dominated the first 20 minutes, but it was Summerhill who set Arms Park alight with a stunning try – bursting round the outside of a floundering defence, before standing up the full-back and diving over in the corner.
Williams was later sin-binned for a dangerous tackle, but Zebre struggled to take advantage as the two sides exchanged penalties.
Zebre pushed hard early in the second half and almost scored a fine try, as lock Federico Ruzza intercepted a lose pass inside his own half and sprinted clear.
He was eventually caught two metres short, and the Blues won a penalty.
But they did not have to wait long to score under the posts as a penalty try was awarded after repeated scrum infringements five metres out, with the Blues’ Taufa’ao Filise in the sin-bin.
However, Zebre’s bubble was quickly burst as a clearing kick was charged down by Williams, and the scrum-half dived on the ball first to score the Blues’ third.
Williams thought he had a second, and Cardiff’s fourth, minutes later with a sensational individual score as he weaved his way through and dived over in the corner – but the referee spotted a knock-on earlier in the move.
And Zebre went up the other end and got their second of the match through Maxime Mbanda, setting a new record for the number of tries scored in a Guinness PRO12 season.
Their comeback appeared to be halted by Dario Christolini’s red card for foul play, but Dries van Schalkwyk scored a late try to confirm the bonus point.
The Guinness PRO12 Final takes place on May 27 at Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Fans can guarantee their place by booking their tickets via www.ticketmaster.ie
Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final