Zebre will go in search of a second home victory of the season when they host winless challengers Cardiff Blues on Saturday.
Following the retirement of Sam Warburton over the summer, the Blues are still searching for the perfect recipe for success to kickstart their Guinness PRO14 season.
What’s at stake?
Zebre are hoping to clinch a record-breaking four successive home victories in the Guinness PRO14 as Cardiff Blues look to end their run of two successive tight losses at the hands of Benetton Rugby and Leinster.
With only three points so far this campaign, John Mulvihill’s men will try to find the victory that helps them keep pace with Conference A leaders Ospreys.
Team news (Zebre Rugby):
Zebre make four changes from the side that lost to Connacht last week, with centre Tommaso Boni being handed his first start of the season.
Hooker Massimo Ceciliani also gets his first start alongside tight-head prop Dario Chistolini and back-rower Jimmy Tuivaiti.
Italian internationals centre Tommaso Castello and back-rower Giovanni Licata return from injury and are among the replacements.
Team news (Cardiff Blues):
Cardiff Blues have made six changes for the clash with three alterations taking place in the pack, with Dillon Lewis starting ahead of Dmitri Arhip.
Josh Navidi starts at number eight and Olly Robinson, who captains the team, takes his place at openside, with Nick Williams on the bench and Ellis Jenkins given a rest week.
In the backs, there are three more changes, with Garyn Smith handed his first competitive start of the season and half-backs Tomos Williams and Gareth Anscombe stepping up from the bench.
Rhys Carre is also named among the replacements and he could make his Guinness PRO14 debut.
Cardiff Blues head coach John Mulvihill believes this is a must-win game after his side fell to two successive losses.
“Benetton was a tough one to swallow. We were in front for most of the game and to finish off like we did; we were not happy.
“It’s not the end of the world but it’s still a game that we should have won.
“We have to learn from those mistakes and get a performance this weekend. There are no excuses – we have to win.
“Everyone is still really positive. There are areas we need to tighten up but the effort has been there, so the performance will come.
“It is important to give players opportunity but it also means we can maintain that leadership and bring on players who can add a bit of a spark in attack and defence.”
Key battle: Josh Navidi v Jimmy Tuivaiti
In a tale of two season debutants, Welshman Navidi makes his first start of the campaign following a shoulder injury sustained during the Blues’ European Challenge Cup final success last season.
The 27-year-old could provide a crucial game winning edge that Cardiff have been missing after losing their lead in games against Leinster and Benetton.
New Zealand back-row Tuivaiti returns to the Zebre set-up following the loss to Connacht last time out and he could also make an impact in the same vein as his opposite number.
Key fact: Zebre’s only victory over the Blues since 2014 was in Parma in October 2015.
Did you know? The Blues’ 25-27 defeat in Treviso last weekend ended an eight-game winning run against Italian opponents.
Zebre: Edoardo Padovani, Mattia Bellini, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Boni, Giovanbattista Venditti, Carlo Canna, Marcello Violi, Renato Giammarioli, Johan Meyer, Jimmy Tuivaiti, George Biagi (c), David Sisi, Dario Chistolini, Massimo Ceciliani, Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: Oliviero Fabiani, Daniele Rimpelli, Giosué Zilocchi, Apisai Tauyavuca, Giovanni Licata, Guglielmo Palazzani, Francois Brummer, Tommaso Castello
Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Jason Harries, Garyn Smith, Rey Lee-Lo, Owen Lane; Gareth Anscombe, Tomos Williams; Brad Thyer, Kristian Dacey, Dillon Lewis, George Earle, Rory Thornton, Josh Turnbull, Olly Robinson (c), Josh Navidi
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Rhys Carre, Dmitri Arhip, Macauley Cook, Nick Williams, Lloyd Williams, Jarrod Evans, Harri Millard.
TV: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma. Live at 8.35pm on Premier Sports 1, eir Sport 2 and DAZN.
Referee: George Clancy (Irish Rugby Football Union)
Assistant Referees: Jonny Erskine (Irish Rugby Football Union) and Matteo Liperini (Federazione Italiana Rugby)
TMO: Stefano Roscini (Federazione Italiana Rugby)
Oliviero Fabiani secured a dramatic victory for Zebre as they came from three tries down against Cardiff Blues to score four and win by two points at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
Zebre continued their hot form on their own patch, winning a record fourth consecutive Guinness PRO14 home match as Blues remain winless this season.
After a rapid start, the fluidity stemmed and it became a battle of endurance, but two late tries from Francois Brummer and Fabiani completed a comeback for the record books.
Olly Robinson stormed Cardiff into the perfect start after Rey Lee-Lo made a break and put the flanker in under the posts with a great one-handed inside pass.
They instantly got a second, with Josh Navidi finding a gap in the corner to muscle through and Gareth Anscombe adding a second conversion to stun the Italians.
Anscombe then dotted down himself to get Blues’ third within 10 minutes, before converting his own score to create a mountain for Zebre to climb.
Carlo Canna stemmed the flow with a try and conversion, following quick hands through the line.
After such a rapid start, the pace caught up with the players and the last 10 minutes of the first half was much more evenly matched, neither team giving way to the other to head into the break 7-21 to Zebre.
It was much of the same after the break as both teams calmed, until Anscombe slotted another kick from the tee to push the visitors further ahead.
But finally Zebre found their rhythm and Johan Meyer crashed over after a sustained period of pressure from the Italians, relentlessly throwing wave after wave at Blues.
Canna converted again to cut the gap to 12 with a quarter of an hour left as the hosts sought a comeback.
The momentum swung towards the Italians and they scored another in quick succession, exploiting the narrow Blues defence to create a two-on-one for Francois Brummer to sneak in at the corner.
Again Canna added the extras and they were only three points behind going into the final 10 minutes, setting up a grandstand finish at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
With only three minutes remaining, Zebre flooded forward and were rewarded for their efforts as Oliviero Fabiani broke loose of a maul and dived over to send the stadium into overdrive.
Despite Canna hitting the post with his conversion attempt, there was no time for a restart and the referee blew his whistle to wild celebrations from Zebre players, coaches and fans.