Zebre have enjoyed a strong start to the Championship and will be hoping to keep up momentum when they travel to Rodney Parade on Saturday.
The Dragons will be hoping to improve upon last season’s sixth-place finish and build from their win against the Southern Kings in round two.
What’s at stake?: Zebre may be going into this match feeling confident, with only one loss in their last six rounds of the Guinness PRO14, coming against Connacht in week two.
The Italian side are in a comfortable third position in Conference A with two wins and a loss so far.
Zebre have emerged victorious from three of their last four games against the Dragons, all of them in Parma, however, so the Welsh side will be looking to capitalise on their own home advantage.
In 11 previous meetings between the two sides, the Dragons have won six, with Zebre winning four, and just the solitary draw in 2014.
Bernard Jackman’s men finished 6th in Conference B last year, ahead of the Kings, who have so far been their only victory in the Championship since last September.
Team news (Dragons): Ollie Griffiths and Rynard Landman return to the starting XV for the Welsh side, in the back row and second row respectively.
Arwel Robson and Jared Rosser make their first starts of the season, whilst Wales international prop Aaron Jarvis is on the bench and set to make his first appearance after a bicep injury.
Rosser replaces Hallam Amos – currently out due to injury – on the wing, whilst Robson is taking over from Josh Lewis as fly-half.
Team news (Zebre): For Zebre the starting XV has 9 Italian internationals, all of whom were part of the summer tour to Japan.
Tommaso Castello, flanker Giovanni Licata and hooker Oliviero Fabiani all return as starters.
Francois Brummer will earn his first start in Europe playing at fullback, in his third Guinness PRO14 appearance.
Talking points: Dragons coach Bernard Jackman said: “It’s a big game and we’re looking forward to it, but if we let Zebre play like they did for the last 20 minutes against Cardiff Blues then we will be chasing shadows.
“We have got to try and keep the ball off them. They are in the top two in offloads and defenders beaten. They take risks, run from their own 22 and throw offloads. They are a dangerous side and we are aware of their threats.
“We feel if we control the ball defensively we can expose them, but attack wise they are dangerous.”
“We have got to build a lead first, but we do we have to kill games off and not become loose,” he added.
“There are moments in games that we need to control better. We’re not a million miles away from a really good performance and we hope it is Saturday afternoon.”
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— Dragons 🏉 (@dragonsrugby) September 21, 2018
Key battle: Josh Lewis v Carlo Canna
Zebre’s 26-year-old fly-half Carlo Canna is the side’s top point scorer so far this season, and the team’s danger man.
Canna scored a try and kicked three conversions against Cardiff Blues last weekend, crucial a 26-24 win.
The 29-times capped Italian international will face up against Dragons youngster Arwel Robson, who makes his first start of the season with Josh Lewis on the bench.
And he may be in for something of a baptism of fire against his assured opposite number.
Key fact: The last seven matches between the two sides have all been won by the home side on the day.
Did you know?: Zebre’s only previous victory in Wales was against Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park in September 2013.
Dragons: Jordan Williams; Dafydd Howells, Adam Warren, Jack Dixon, Jared Rosser; Arwel Robson, Rhodri Williams; Brok Harris, Elliot Dee, Lloyd Fairbrother; Rynard Landman, Cory Hill; Aaron Wainwright, Ollie Griffiths, Ross Moriarty
Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Ryan Bevington, Aaron Jarvis, Brandon Nansen, Nic Cudd, Tavis Knoyle, Josh Lewis, Jarryd Sage
Zebre: Francois Brummer; Mattia Bellini, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Castello, Edoardo Padovani; Carlo Canna, Marcello Violi; Andrea Lovotti, Oliviero Fabiani, Dario Chistolini, Dave Sisi, George Biagi, Jimmy Tuivaiti, Johan Meyer, Giovanni Licata
Replacements: Massimo Ceciliani, Daniele Rimpelli, Giosue Zilocchi, Apisai Tauyavuca, Matu Tevi, Guglielmo Palazzani, Tommaso Boni, Gabriele di Giulio
TV: Live on Premier Sports, EIR Sports, S4C and DAZN.
Referee: Joy Neville (Irish Rugby Football Union)
Assistant Referees: George Clancy (Irish Rugby Football Union) and Simon Mills (Welsh Rugby Union)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Irish Rugby Football Union)
Citing Commissioner: Gwyn Bowden
The Dragons won just their second game in the Guinness PRO14 since last September as they emerged victorious against a spirited Zebre XV in what were challenging conditions at Rodney Parade.
First-half tries from Arwel Robson and Dafydd Howells, and some backs-to-the-wall defending in the second period, was enough to triumph over a Zebre team who have enjoyed an impressive start to the season.
The Italian side stayed close throughout, but could not make the most of their man advantage when Brian Nansen was sent to the bin mid-way through the second 40 and ultimately it was Dragons who held on to claim the spoils.
The Dragons were first to trouble the scoreboard, as Robson made no mistake with the boot when the Dragons were awarded a penalty for offside.
It was looking like a one-man show ten minutes later when Robson found a gap in the Zebre defence after he was cleverly found by Ollie Griffiths to take the ball in from the 22.
But the youngster followed up that piece of brilliance with a moment he’ll try to forget when he skewed his conversion attempt horribly wide to keep the lead at eight.
Zebre soon responded spectacularly, though, thanks largely to the deft hands of Mattia Bellini.
A lofted chip from Carlo Canna asked questions of the Dragons defence, and when Bellini came surging into the picture and juggled the bouncing ball, he took it away from Jordan Williams to score.
Canna could not add the extras, and his opposite number Robson once again spurned a kick at goal to extend the Dragons’ lead.
But they weren’t to be denied before the break as they found themselves camped on the Zebre line with the clock running red, but without a route over the whitewash.
Fantastic vision from Rhodri Williams, however, saw the ball recycled wide, with a long, lofted pass finding Dafydd Howells in plenty of space to cross in the corner.
Robson once again pulled a tough kick, meaning that the home side went into the break with a 13-5 advantage.
And they added a further three points when Jordan Williams took over kicking duties, sailing a long-range effort straight down the middle five minutes into the second 40.
Zebre were offered a lifeline when Nansen was sent to the sin-bin in the 58th minute after he checked Canna off the ball with his shoulder, but could not capitalise on their man advantage.
And the Welsh side saw the game out professionally, refusing to allow their opponents an inch in the closing stages of proceedings.