Preview: Cardiff Blues v Aironi

Date published: November 24 2011

Aironi fly to Cardiff to open Round Nine of the RaboDirect PRO12 – back after a two-week break – against the Blues on Thursday.

Aironi fly to Cardiff to open Round Nine of the RaboDirect PRO12 – back after a two-week break – against the Blues on Thursday.

The Welsh team are enjoying a four-game winning streak in the RaboDirect PRO12 and the Heineken Cup.

They started the streak against Aironi on October 8 when the two teams met for the first time this season. At the end of a spectacular match with four tries apiece, Ceri Sweeney's 17 points made the difference in a 26-37 win for Cardiff.

In that game, Aironi became the first Italian team to collect a four-try bonus point in the RaboDirect PRO12. Aironi have not scored a try in the four games played since then against Munster, Glasgow, Leicester Tigers and Clermont-Auvergne.

In an attempt to regain their momentum, Aironi travel to Cardiff with several changes, some of them forced by last-minute injuries.

Matias Aguero is out with Alberto De Marchi starting in his place. Salvatore Perugini has pulled out of the Barbarians squad in Twickenham against Australia on Saturday and he will be on the bench.

The only Aironi player to wear the black-and-white shirt in London will be Marco Bortolami, who leaves Quintin Geldenhuys to captain the team.

George Biagi will play alongside the South African-born Italy international in the second row. The back row is completely new with Nicola Cattina returning after a week off, Filippo Ferrarini starting for the first time this season and Josh Sole switching to number eight.

In the halves, Tito Tebaldi is back and so Naas Olivier can wear the number 10 shirt again (Italian Federation rules state that Italian RaboDirect PRO12 teams can't play with two foreign players at 9, 10 and 15 positions simultaneously).

Giulio Toniolatti starts on the wing while Sinoti Sinoti moves to outside centre alongside Gilberto Pavan. The back-line is completed by youngsters Giovanbattista Venditti on the wing and Ruggero Trevisan at full-back.

Form: Cardiff Blues have won their four matches in all competitions, and coincidentally all by six-point winning margins. The Blues have won their last two games in the RaboDirect PRO12, but both were played away from home. At Cardiff City Stadium, the Blues have lost their last two in this competition. The region have won all 11 previous clashes with Italian sides. Aironi's last two encounters in the RaboDirect PRO12, against Munster and Glasgow, both were tryless games which ended in 6-18 defeats. The two teams have already met this season, with Blues winning 37-26 in Viadana in Round Six.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Chris Czekaj, 14 Richard Mustoe, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Tom James, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Maama Molitika, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Michael Paterson, 5 Paul Tito (c), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Taufaao Filise, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Marc Breeze, 17 Nathan Trevett, 18 Sam Hobbs, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Ceri Sweeney 23 Casey Laulala, 22 Roberto Quartaroli, 23 Matteo Pratichetti.

Aironi: 15 Ruggero Trevisan, 14 Giulio Toniolatti, 13 Sinoti Sinoti, 12 Gilberto Pavan, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Josh Sole, 7 Filippo Ferrarini, 6 Nicola Cattina; 5 George Biagi, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys (c), 3 Fabio Staibano, 2 Tommaso D'Apice, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Fabio Ongaro, 17 Salvatore Perugini, 18 Lorenzo Romano, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Frans Viljoen, 21 Tyson Keats, 22 Roberto Quartaroli, 23 Matteo Pratichetti.

Date: Thursday, November 24
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium
Kick-off: 19:30 GMT
Referee: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
Assistant referees: James Jones (Wales), Sean Brickell (Wales)
Television match official: Paul Adams (Wales)