Second-row Cory Hill is expecting a physical battle up front when his Newport Gwent Dragons side travel to Italy to face Benetton Treviso on Friday.
Hill is expecting the set piece to be crucial against a Treviso side that ran Leinster and Ulster close in their opening two games but lost 64-10 to Ospreys last week.
The 24-year-old replaces Nick Crosswell in the Dragons starting XV on Friday night which has seen Kingsley Jones make seven changes to the side that lost to Munster.
Winger Ashton Hewitt gets his first start of the season after recovering from a shoulder injury while Adam Warren joins Tyler Morgan in the centres with Charlie Davies starting at scrum-half.
“We know they have a big pack and we realise the challenge ahead of us,” Hill told the South Wales Argus.
“For years now they have had a good pack and it’s a hard place to go. We know what we are up against so have to get our heads on.
“Over the years Italian teams have got stronger and last weekend Zebre were beating Connacht when the game was abandoned, so they have shown that they can win and compete.
“Treviso pushed Ulster, one of the top teams in the league, until the end. They are both strong outfits, especially at home, and we know what the challenges are and that we have to match them there.”
Treviso head coach Kieran Crowley meanwhile has called for a change of mentality and improved consistency if they’re to start recording some more positive results.
“We know we need to find some consistency to the way we are playing and work from there to make sure performance levels get better and better,” he said.
“When I looked back at a lot of games from last season you could see that, even in the games we won, the players were more concerned with trying not to lose than going out to win the game themselves.
“We have to change that approach and that mindset and there is no doubt that is something that is going to be a big challenge for us.
“I have only had a few months in the job but I have been focused on things like getting our culture right, making sure we have a good leadership structure and a style of play that the players enjoy and buy into it.”
Newport Gwent Dragons: Meyer, Hewitt, Morgan, Warren, Amos, O’Brien, Davies; Hobbs, Buckley, Fairbrother, Hill, Landman, Thomas, Cudd, Jackson.
Replacements: Rhys-Thomas, Davies, Mitchell, Screech, Keddie, Jones, Beard, Rhys-Jones.
Benetton Rugby: Hayward, Esposito, Benvenuti, Sgarbi, McLean, Allan, Bronzini; Quaglio, Gega, Ferrari, Fuser, Paulo, Minto, Lazzaroni, Budd.
Replacements: Bigi, De Marchi, Traore, Gerosa, Steyn, Tebaldi, McKinley, Odiete.
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 12, Benetton Treviso won 6, NG Dragons won 6.
At BT Stadio Monigo, 8.05pm local time (7.05pm UK & Ireland).
Referee: John Lacey (IRFU, 56th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher (IRFU), Filippo Bertelli (FIR)
Citing Commissioner: Achille Reali (FIR)
Benetton Rugby Treviso banished the demons of last week’s heavy defeat to Ospreys to secure their first victory of the Guinness PRO12 campaign with a 27-11 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons.
Treviso led the game from start to finish, with Tommaso Benvenuti’s score leading the way in a 10-8 half-time advantage, while Filo Paulo and Marco Fuser compounded Dragons to a third defeat of the Guinness PRO12 season at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo.
The Dragons fought back at the close of the first half, with lock Rynard Landman crossing but it wasn’t enough to stop the Italians securing a second successive victory over Newport on home territory.
It was the Dragons who began the game on the front foot, but a missed Angus O’Brien penalty spurred the hosts into life, rewarded for an incessant period of pressure when Tommaso Allan kicked the first three points on the match.
And Treviso were not done there, piling scrum after scrum onto Kingsley Jones’ side, strain which eventually told when Benvenuti crashed over. Allan added the extras for a ten-point advantage.
In need of an immediate response, the Dragons got their wish when O’Brien and full-back Carl Meyer broke from deep, and with the defence not quite able to find their shape, Landman was on hand to halve the deficit to 10-5 with ten minutes until the break.
From there the half belonged to the visitors, with resolute defence on the Treviso five-metre line the sole barrier to scrum-half Charlie Davies picking up his side’s second score of the half.
It seemed as though Kieran Crowley’s side would reach the break without further damage, but an impressive leap from Cory Hill saw a defensive line-out stolen, doing enough to earn a penalty which O’Brien kicked for his first points of the evening.
Despite their rearguard action at the close of the first 40 minutes, it was Treviso who came out of the blocks firing, further adding to their tally from their very first chance of the half.
The ball was worked out to the brink of the right touchline, with Paulo the man to cross, a score added to by Allan’s conversion from the narrowest of angles to put the Italians more than a score ahead once again.
That advantage prompted the game into a scrappy affair, much to the benefit of Treviso, with the Dragons looking threatening only to fumble at the crucial moment to hand possession back to their opponents.
And despite the Newport pressure, the hosts’ lead extended further as Allan made no mistake from right in front of the posts, pushing the difference to 12 points as the game headed to the final quarter.
O’Brien’s second penalty of the night kept Jones’ side in contention, but desperate defensive intervention was needed just to keep them in the game, first through Matthew Screech before a team effort provided a sigh of relief with a penalty to clear from danger to keep the score at 20-11.
But that only seemed to prolong the inevitable for the Dragons as Treviso ran in a third try on the cusp of the full-time whistle through Fuser, with neither side able to pick up a bonus point from the contest.
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final