Fourth plays seventh in Conference B of the Guinness PRO14 on Friday night when Edinburgh host Benetton Rugby at BT Murrayfield.
The Italians have won just once in their last 11 visits to Scotland: 20-17 against Edinburgh at Myreside twelve months ago.
What’s at stake? Benetton have beaten Edinburgh just twice in their last eight fixtures but Richard Cockerill’s men have only one win from their first four this season.
But they have had to contend with a tough schedule, as exemplified by their trip to champions Leinster at the weekend, with the Irish province running out 31-7 winners.
Benetton may have lost at Ospreys on Saturday (27-10) but have already beaten Dragons and the Blues this season, and also beat Edinburgh in dramatic fashion at Myreside last September.
Team news (Edinburgh): Cockerill has named a full-strength side with eight international stars returning to the starting XV and nine changes in total to the team that faced Leinster in Dublin last weekend.
In the backline, Scotland caps Blair Kinghorn, Matt Scott and Henry Pyrgos are all reinstated, while Simon Hickey gets the nod at stand-off following a replacement appearance from the bench at the RDS Arena last weekend.
In the pack, captain Stuart McInally returns at hooker alongside experienced tighthead prop, WP Nel. Grant Gilchrist makes his fourth appearance of the season in the second-row, while Hamish Watson and Fijian international Bill Mata – who missed the last two fixtures due to injury – feature in the back-row.
Team news (Benetton Rugby): Full-back for the Italians will be Jayden Hayward, on the wings Ratuva Tavuyara and Luca Sperandio.
Tommaso Iannone and Luca Morisi will be the centres with Dewaldt Duvenage at scrum-half and Tommaso Allan at fly-half.
The front row will consist of Cherif Traore, Luca Bigi and Marco Riccioni. Locks will be Marco Fuser and captain Dean Budd. Finally, the back row sees Sebastian Negri, Marco Barbini and Robert Barbieri completing the XV chosen by Kieran Crowley.
Talking points: Richard Cockerill, said: “If you have any ambition to be competing, then you obviously want to win your home games. We’ve had three away matches and certainly could have gotten more points out of Ospreys and Ulster, but we didn’t. However, they are clearly tough places to go.
“Benetton were good last year and are much improved. They’ve had a very good start to this year, but we feel like we’re playing pretty well. We’ve got a lot of confidence in the team and we’re driven to win at the weekend.
“If we put together the performances from the last three weeks, we’ll certainly get points out of the next few games. I’ve got every confidence in this group of players.”
Key battle: Tommaso Allan v Simon Hickey
Simon Hickey, former New Zealand U20 captain, had to settle for a replacement spot last weekend at the RDS.
But the No.10 comes in to start this weekend in the Scottish capital and will be itching to win his individual head to head against Italy No.10 Tommaso Allan, who has impressed at the start of the new season.
The Azzurri playmaker held his nerve to slot a late conversion to down the Cardiff Blues and ensure they have picked up this season they impressive way they finished the last.
Key fact: Just two Italian sides have beaten Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield – Benetton in October 2012 and Zebre in October 2016.
Did you know? The Scotsmen have won their last three matches at BT Murrayfield since Ulster beat them there in April.
Edinburgh: Blair Kinghorn, Dougie Fife, Chris Dean, Matt Scott, Duhan van der Merwe, Simon Hickey, Henry Pyrgos, Allan Dell, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Magnus Bradbury, Hamish Watson, Bill Mata
Replacements: Ross Ford, Rory Sutherland, Murray McCallum, Fraser McKenzie, Jamie Ritchie, Nathan Fowles, Jaco van der Walt, Juan Pablo Socino
Benetton Rugby: Jayden Hayward, Ratuva Tavuyara, Tommaso Iannone, Luca Morisi, Luca Sperandio, Tommaso Allan, Dewaldt Duvenage, Cherif Traore, Luca Bigi, Marco Riccioni, Marco Fuser, Dean Budd, Sebastian Negri, Marco Barbini, Robert Barbieri
Replacements: Engjel Makelara, Derrick Appiah, Simone Ferrari, Federico Ruzza, Marco Lazzaroni, Edoardo Gori, Ian McKinley, Ignacio Brex
At BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, 7.35pm. Live on Premier Sports, EIR Sport and DAZN
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 168th competition game) Assistant Referees: Elgan Williams (WRU), Keith Allen (SRU) Citing Commissioner: Paul Minto (SRU) TMO: Andrew McMenemy (SRU)
Edinburgh weathered an Italian second-half storm to win by a single point at BT Murrayfield, despite Luca Sperandio bagging himself a hat-trick for Benetton.
Three tries in the second 40 minutes meant Benetton clawed their way back from a 24-8 deficit, but three missed conversions left them ruing a missed opportunity for a second consecutive away win at Edinburgh.
Bill Mata caught holding on from the kick off and Tommaso Allan sent it through the posts to take an early 3-0 lead in the opening minutes.
Simon Hickey levelled it only two minutes later though after an infringement at the breakdown from the Italians.
Matt Scott came within inches as he took a crash ball a quarter of an hour in, but Nigel Owens deemed his attempt a double movement on the floor and Benetton came away unscathed.
Two quick tries changed the complexion of the game midway through the first half however, as the hosts got up and running.
Matt Scott found a gap from close range to open the scoring, getting his first upon his return to Murrayfield after two years with Gloucester Rugby, with Hickey adding the extras.
Then Duhan van der Merwe showed his rapid pace by bursting through a gap to take a lovely pop from Hickey and race clear and dot down only two minutes later to stun Benetton, again Hickey converting.
But the Italians responded well, playing some intricate rugby down the right-hand side before recycling it and whipping it to the opposite touchline, where Luca Sperandio was waiting to cut inside and stretch out to touch down.
The hosts increased their lead five minutes before the break as Chris Dean sliced through the Italians’ defence and brilliantly created a two-on-one for Blair Kinghorn to dive over in the corner for his first try of the season.
Benetton got one back at the perfect time, picking and going after a driving maul to muscle over, with Marco Fuser standing up as the scorer and Allan cutting Edinburgh’s lead to nine points on the stroke of half time.
The second half was brought to life when Edinburgh switched the direction of play behind a scrum in Benetton’s 22, Kinghorn taking the ball up to the gain-line then slinging a long pass out wide for Dougie Fife to dot down.
Again Benetton replied with intent, with Sperandio finding himself in space in the corner again to dive over and keep the Italians in the game at 31-20.
Then in an incredible effort, Sperandio got his hat-trick to cut the deficit to just six points, somehow grounding right in the corner in mid-air after getting up from a tackle metres from the try line.
With the help of the TMO, Nigel Owens saw nothing wrong and the bonus-point score was awarded, but Ian McKinley couldn’t add the extras.
But the Italians had turned the tide, compounded by Grant Gilchrist being sent to the bin after pulling down a maul, and Benetton kicked to the corner from the resultant penalty.
Throwing themselves at the line, Marco Barbini eventually reached out and dotted down from close range to put the visitors within a point less than ten minutes from time.
In the last minute a scrum was given with Edinburgh’s put-in, but Benetton pushed too hard and the hosts won a penalty as last-chance saloon passed the Italians by.