Preview: Edinburgh v Zebre

Date published: October 31 2013

Edinburgh boss Alan Solomons has named a much-changed side to take on Zebre in the RaboDirect Pro12 at Murrayfield on Friday.

Edinburgh boss Alan Solomons has named a much-changed side to take on Zebre in the RaboDirect Pro12 at Murrayfield on Friday.

Head coach Solomons has challenged his charges to grasp the opportunity presented by the November Tests.

The Murrayfield men have won three of their last four games at home in all competitions, and hope to complete the second part of an Italian double in the capital.

Zebre were denied their first home win in the RaboDirect PRO12 in the last play of the game against Scarlets last weekend (16-16), and will look to build on their success away to Cardiff earlier this season.

“Zebre have become a good team and will no doubt come here fancying their chances, particularly as they'll view us as a depleted side,” Solomons told the Edinburgh Rugby website.

“They have a lot of guys who have represented the Italian national side and have recruited some useful players, like All Black Brendon Leonard who is a key figure for them.

“It's going to be a tough game, but that's what's so great about the PRO12 now, there are just no easy games in this competition.”

A combination of injuries and international selection for the forthcoming November internationals has enforced eight changes to the team that started last weekend's win over Treviso (20-13).

Aleki Lutui (hooker), Tomas Leonardi (back-row) and Wicus Blaauw (prop) start in place of international trio Ross Ford, David Denton and Alasdair Dickinson, with the latter released from Scotland camp to appear on the bench.

Back-row Roddy Grant – absent from last week's win to be present at the birth of his daughter Reeva – starts in place of the injured Dimitri Basilaia (head knock) and will captain the side.

In the backs, Ben Atiga, Joaquin Dominguez (centres), Sean Kennedy (scrum-half) and Jack Cuthbert (wing) step in for Scotland quartet Matt Scott, Nick De Luca, Greig Laidlaw and injured winger Tim Visser (leg).

Solomons added: “Obviously there are number of players missing, which has an impact, but it provides opportunities for other players to step up to the plate, to compete at this level and for places in the team.

“It will be a tough challenge, but I have every confidence in them.”

The selection of lock Izak van der Westhuizen is the only tactical change to the team, with Sean Cox starting on the bench, while other notable inclusions see back-row Ross Rennie return from a shoulder injury and new signing Sam Beard (centre) available to make his debut as a replacement.

Form: Edinburgh entertain Italian opponents in the RaboDirect PRO12 for the second week running, having lowered the colours of Benetton Treviso last Friday at Murrayfield. The Scotsmen have won four of their last five games at Murrayfield in all competitions, whilst the only Italian side to beat Edinburgh at the famous old ground was Treviso in October 2012. Zebre came within a whisker of beating the Scarlets in Italy on Friday, leading 16-13 until Rhys Priestland kicked an injury time penalty goal to tie the scores. After only 6 rounds of play Zebre have already tallied seven league points, only three shy of their entire tally in their debut season, 2012/13. Edinburgh won both encounters last season although in Parma in March it was by a margin of just two points.

The teams:

Edinburgh: 15 Greg Tonks, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Joaquin Dominguez, 12 Ben Atiga, 11 Jack Cuthbert, 10 Harry Leonard, 9 Sean Kennedy, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Roddy Grant (c), 6 Tomas Leonardi, 5 Izak van der Westuizen, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 WP Nel, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Wiccus Blaauw.
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Al Dickinson, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Sean Cox, 20 Ross Rennie, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Sam Beard, 23 Lee Jones.

Zebre: 15 Dion Berryman, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Emiliano Caffini, 6 Filippo Cristiano, 5 Marco Bortolami (c), 4 Quentin Geldenhuys, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Davide Giazzoni, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Luciano Leibson, 17 Andrea de Marchi, 18 David Ryan, 19 Michael van Vuren, 20 Andrea Manici, 21 David Odiete, 23 Giulio Toniolatti.

Date: Friday, November 1
Kick-off: 19:45
Venue: Murrayfield
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: David Changleng (Scotland), Bob Nevins (Scotland)
Assessor: Jim Fleming (Scotland)