Two sides who return from European action with the taste of victory fresh face off in Parma as Zebre prepare to welcome Edinburgh Rugby when the Guinness PRO14 makes its return on Friday night.
Despite defeat at Edinburgh’s Scottish rivals Glasgow Warriors last time out in the Guinness PRO14, Zebre are fresh from a hard-fought win over Bristol Bears in the Challenge Cup, a result that they will see as a springboard.
Their opponents, however, look to be in strong form, especially in the offensive department, after downing Toulon 40-14 in the Champions Cup, coupled with consecutive Guinness PRO14 bonus-point wins.
What’s at stake?
Despite early season wins against the Isuzu Southern Kings and the Cardiff Blues, Zebre are without a victory in their last three Guinness PRO14 fixtures, a statistic that they will be keen to put right.
They have, however, lost only once at home all season, and will feel confident in the knowledge that they are a side tough to beat at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
But they will face a stern test in an Edinburgh side resurgent after they had lost three from four domestically at the start of the new campaign.
Team news (Zebre): The home side make just two changes to the starting line-up from last weekend’s win over Bristol in a starting XV resplendent with Italian internationals.
There are ten in total, with Guglielmo Palazzani taking Riccardo Raffaele’s shirt at scrum-half.
#ZEBvEDI il centro delle Zebre #Rugby e @Federugby Tommaso Boni parla alla vigilia della sfida di Parma contro Edinburgh del suo ruolo in campo, del suo stile di gioco preferito e su come trova la giusta concentrazione per queste sfide internazionali. pic.twitter.com/wO4v7mgybO
— Zebre Rugby (@ZebreRugby) October 25, 2018
In the pack Jacopo Bianchi makes his first ever Zebre appearance, the former U20 international stepping in at flanker.
Team news (Edinburgh): It is a different story for Edinburgh, however, as Richard Cockerill makes ten changes to the squad that beat Toulon.
Pierre Schoeman makes his return from suspension and is called straight back into the starting line-up at loosehead prop.
Just behind him in the pack will be young second-row talent in the form of Jamie Hodgson, a graduate of the Scottish Rugby Academy.
Pietro Ceccarelli is named on the bench alongside Callum Atkinson, Mungo Mason and Jason Baggott, all of whom will make their Edinburgh debuts if called upon.
Taling points: Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill said: “Beating Toulon last weekend was a good step forward in our development, but now we’ve got to set that standard every time we play. We’ve got to do it again against Zebre this weekend.
“We’ve obviously had guys away training with Scotland, but we’ve got a good squad and we’ve got to utilise it.
“Getting a win in Zebre is as important as anywhere else, so we’ve just got to get it right. It’s important that we keep up the consistency in our performances.”
Key battle: Guglielmo Palazzani v Henry Pyrgos
On his return to the side, Palazzani faces a man in form in the shape of Edinburgh scrum-half Pyrgos.
Called up into the Scotland squad last week, Pyrgos celebrated with a try in what was a complete performance from the 29-year-old in his side’s win over Toulon.
📰 | Schoeman returns for trip to Zebre: https://t.co/o1xxAMyu2R
🗣️ “Getting a win in Zebre is as important as anywhere else, so we’ve just got to get it right. It’s important that we keep up the consistency in our performances.”#AlwaysEdinburgh 🔷🔶 pic.twitter.com/jnUc3jbkmK
— Edinburgh Rugby (@EdinburghRugby) October 25, 2018
Handed the captain’s armband, Edinburgh will look to Pyrgos to dictate their play, and Palazzini will have to be prepared from the off for a tough battle.
Key stat: The Scotsmen have won their last three encounters with Italian opponents, while their overall record in Parma is won three, lost two.
Did you know?: The Italians’ only victory in their last eleven fixtures against Scottish opponents was to Edinburgh at Murrayfield in October 2016.
Zebre: Francois Brummer, Mattia Bellini, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Castello (c), Gabriele Di Giulio, Carlo Canna, Guglielmo Palazzani; Andrea Lovotti, Oliviero Fabiani, Dario Chistolini, David Sisu, George Biagi, Jacopo Bianchi, Johan Meyer, Renato Giammarioli
Replacements: Luhandre Luus, Daniele Rimpelli, Giosué Zilocchi, Leonard Krumov, Apisai Tauyavuca, Riccardo Raffaele, Tommaso Boni, Paula Balekana
Edinburgh: Dougie Fife, Darcy Graham, James Johnstone, Chris Dean, Duhan van der Merwe, Simon Hickey, Henry Pyrgos (c); Pierre Schoeman, Ross Ford, Simon Berghan, Jamie Hodgson, Callum Hunter-Hill, Luke Hamilton, Luke Crosbie, Bill Mata
Replacements: David Cherry, Rory Sutherland, Pietro Ceccarelli, Callum Atkinson, Mungo Mason, Sean Kennedy, Jason Baggott, Juan Pablo Socino
TV: At Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma, 8pm. Live on DAZN and FreeSports
Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU, 39th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher (IRFU), Andrea Piardi (FIR)
Citing Commissioner: Alberto Recaldini (FIR)
TMO: Stefano Roscini (FIR)
Carlo Canna shone as Zebre roared back from a 13-point deficit to humble Edinburgh Rugby in Parma.
The Italians had found themselves staring down the barrel midway during a chastening first period but second-half tries from David Sisi, Gabriele di Giulio, Canna and Tommaso Castello saw them run out 34-16 winners.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh are left still chasing their first away triumph of the 2018-19 Guinness PRO14 season.
The visitors got the scoreboard ticking over early on via the boot of Simon Hickey but for the most part, they came up against an unrelenting, dogged wall of black shirts.
Invention was required and it arrived with 21 minutes on the clock, Hickey slickly offloading to Chris Dean, who rode a tackle before feeding Darcy Graham, who slinked his way over the line for the first try of the evening, Hickey adding the extras.
Another Hickey penalty made it 13-0 but shortly before the break, Zebre ensured that the travelling Scots wouldn’t have things all their own way, Canna bisecting the posts to chip away at the deficit.
It would take just a few minutes of the second half for the hosts to hit back, lock Sisi catching the Edinburgh defence napping from the breakdown, jinking away from a clutch of white shirts and racing away to score, Canna converting.
A Hickey penalty quickly restored Edinburgh’s lead to six points, although Canna replied with a well-struck long-range effort.
Then, with 25 minutes on the clock, the home side stole into the lead.
A searching kick from Canna wasn’t dealt with and, as Edinburgh bodies faltered, di Giulio raced onto the ball before gleefully streaking over the line to score, Canna again adding the extras as Zebre got their noses in front.
As Edinburgh strived to haul themselves back into the ascendancy, the home struck what looked to be the decisive blow with seven minutes remaining, Canna expertly seizing an errant pass before sprinting over for his side’s third try of the contest, the fly-half converting his own score to make it 27-16.
And Zebre weren’t done there, Castello slicing through the Edinburgh line at the death, Canna slotting away the conversion to round off an excellent night’s work for the hosts.