Two Conference A rivals in the Guinness PRO14 clash on Saturday when the Ospreys head to Parma to take on Zebre.
The Ospreys have impressed so far this season to sit second in the Conference with the Italians only three positions behind them in fifth.
What’s at stake? The Italians have impressed at the start of this campaign with wins over the Isuzu Southern Kings and Cardiff Blues.
They are also on a four-match winning run at home but that will be sorely tested against an Ospreys side that have won three of four so far.
Team news (Zebre): Michael Bradley has made four changes to his side that lost last time out to the Dragons. one in the forwards with the Fijian lock Apisai Tauyavuca who earns his first start in place of George Biagi, resting after 254 minutes played in the first four rounds.
In the backs Guglielmo Palazzani, Tommaso Boni and Gabriele di Giulio will start from the first minute with Edoardo Padovani switching to full-back in his 60th official game in the Zebre jersey.
On the bench there is a first appearance in the Guinness PRO14 for the Venetian born lock Samuele Ortis, one of the 11 new arrivals in the summer.
Team news (Ospreys): The backline is unchanged from the one that downed Benetton Rugby last time out.
But up front Ma’afu Fia comes in at tighthead prop for Tom Botha while Alun Wyn Jones misses out so Adam Beard comes into the second row. Scott Baldwin is back on the bench as is Olly Cracknell.
Talking points Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke said: ”Three home wins have given us a platform to go into back to back away games that will offer totally different challenges to the group over the next eight days.
“We’ll continue to take it one game at a time, we’re not looking any further than that. Our focus is on ourselves, and ensuring we do the basics well. There’s confidence in the group but it’s a realistic and respectful confidence, not a misplaced one.”
Key battle: George North v Mattia Bellini
George North remains on the right wing this weekend as he continues his fast start to life at his new club.
But the Ospreys will need to be wary of the threat carried by Mattia Bellini on the right wing for Zebre.
The Italian international has scored two tries already this season, while North has three.
Key stat: Zebre have won their last four home matches and their last three home games against Welsh opponents.
Did you know? The Ospreys’ only victory in their last eight “away” games in all tournaments was against Cardiff Blues at “Judgement Day” in April and they have lost on their last three visits to Italy.
Zebre: Edoardo Padovani, Mattia Bellini, Tommaso Boni, Tommaso Castello, Gabriele di Giulio, Carlo Canna, Guglielmo Palazzani, Andrea Lovotti, Oliviero Fabiani, Dario Chistolini, David Sisi, Apisai Tauyavuca, Jimmy Tuivaiti, Johan Meyer, Giovannia Licata
Replacements: Massimo Ceciliani, Daniele Rimpelli, Giosue Ziocchi, Leonard Krumov, Samuele Ortis, Marcello Violi, Francois Brummer, Giulio Bisegni
Ospreys: Dan Evans, George North, Joe Thomas, Owen Watkin, Luke Morgan, Sam Davies, Aled Davies, Nicky Smith, Scott Otten, Ma’afu Fia, Bradley Davies, Adam Beard, Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric, James King
Replacements: Scott Baldwin, Rhodri Jones, Tom Botha, Olly Cracknell, Sam Cross, Tom Habberfield, James Hook, Cory Allen
TV: At Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma, 4pm on Premier Sports, EIR Sport and DAZN
Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU), Assistant Referees: Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (IRFU) e Vincenzo Schipani (FIR), TMO: Alan Falzone (FIR)
Luke Morgan scored the decisive try as Ospreys claimed their first Guinness PRO14 away win since April at Zebre.
The former sevens player burst through early in the first half to score and from then on, it was all about Ospreys’ defence – as they repelled Zebre’s abrasive attack.
The hosts, who had won their last four home games and last three against Welsh opponents, did cross in the second half but Ospreys held on for a crucial win.
The result keeps them in touch with Glasgow Warriors in Conference A, while Zebre remain sixth.
Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke opted to rest influential captain Alun Wyn Jones, with Adam Beard coming into the pack – while there was also a recall for prop Ma’afu Fia.
And it was their forwards who created the first try with a solid scrum acting as a base, allowing the Ospreys backs to move the ball quickly from left to right and create space for wing Morgan to stroll in unopposed.
Morgan was causing all kinds of problems for Zebre and he almost scored a second just before the half-hour mark.
He received the ball just inside his own half tight on the left touchline but somehow managed to wriggle out of the first tackle and accelerate through a gap.
Zebre’s defence were scrambling to keep up but Mattia Bellini just about stopped him in full flow.
Ospreys’ Sam Davies kept the scoreboard ticking over in a tight and attritional contest, with two penalties and a drop goal keeping Zebre at arm’s length.
Unlike the visitors, Zebre struggled to move the ball freely – relying on forward power to bring them points.
But Ospreys, led by Dan Lydiate and Justin Tipuric, were outstanding in defence and forced regular Zebre errors.
In the second half, the hosts began to increase the pressure, with their strong recent home form under serious threat, as Carlo Canna became increasingly involved.
But they were starved off the ball by an efficient Ospreys side, with Scott Baldwin particularly busy, however Cory Allen missed a great chance to seal the win when he knocked on from five metres out.
Zebre made them pay, with Jimmy Tuivaiti rumbling over with ten minutes to go off the back of a rolling maul.
However, any joy was short-lived with Canna missing a simple conversion and Sam Davies nailed another penalty to keep the hosts at bay.