Preview: Treviso v Ospreys

Date published: August 30 2012

PRO12 holders the Ospreys will begin their title defence without a host of injured stars when they take on Treviso on Friday.

PRO12 holders the Ospreys begin their title defence against Treviso without a host of internationals at Stadio Comunale di Monigo.

Missing from action will be Ryan Jones (knee), Eli Walker (shoulder), George Stowers (back) and Justin Tipuric (hip) for their season opener.

Half-backs Kahn Fotuali'i and Dan Biggar have been preferred over Rhys Webb and Matthew Morgan in what will be a testing game in Italy.

“Treviso is a tough place to go at any time, but to make the trip on the opening weekend of the season is particularly tough. They are a good team who as we've seen in their two seasons in the PRO12 are a match for anyone, and they've recruited well over the summer so will be confident going into the game,” said forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys.

“As always, our focus in training as been on what we can bring to the table, on our preparation, attention to detail, and the need to be clinical. Like every year there's a sense of optimism at the start of the season but it's one that I think this year is a little bit different. We've got over 9,000 season ticket holders signed up and eagerly awaiting the first home game against Ulster next weekend, and we've seen how the community has got behind the cause at events like the kit launch. It's clear there is a real buzz about the place.

“It's going to be a difficult evening. It will be warm and we'll be up against tough opponents desperate to start on a high in front of their own fans. It'll be a test of character for us but we are really looking forward to getting back into it.”

Meanwhile, Treviso coach Franco Smith has taken the expected rainy conditions into account in his team selections.

As a result Italy fly-half Kris Burton starts at full-back while Alberto Di Bernardo wears number ten. Tommaso Iannone is at centre and Luke McLean is on the wing, thus giving the hosts more kicking options.

In the absence of regular skipper Antonio Pavanello fellow lock Corniel Van Zyl will lead the side from the second row alongside Francesco Minto.

A new-look back-row sees Simone Favaro make his Treviso debut and joins Alessandro Zanni and Robert Barbieri in the loose trio.

Favaro and prop Alberto De Marchi are the only new players in the starting XV.

The only other new player who could make his debut is New Zealander Dean Budd, who will start from the bench which has a 6/2 split in favour of the forwards.

Form: Benetton Treviso ended last campaign with just one victory since the New Year: 33-32 against Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade on 13 April. Treviso have not beaten a foreign side at Stadio Monigo since they lowered the colours of Biarritz there in the European Cup on 10 December. Defending RaboDirect PRO12 champions, Ospreys, have won in round one in three of the past four seasons, and concluded last season with seven straight wins. Ospreys have never lost to an Italian side but came very close during their 26-all draw with Treviso in the European Cup last November.

The teams:

Treviso: 15 Kristopher Burton, 14 Ludovico Nitoglia, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Luke McLean, 10 Alberto Di Bernardo, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Simone Favaro, 5 Corniel Van Zyl (c), 4 Francesco Minto, 3 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 2 Enrico Ceccato, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Franco Sbaraglini, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Dean Budd, 20 Paul Derbyshire, 21 Marco Filippucci, 22 Fabio Semenzato, 23 Brendan Williams.

Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Tom Isaacs, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Jonathan Thomas, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 James King, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (capt), 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Ryan Bevington.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Joe Rees, 19 Joe Bearman, 20 Morgan Allen, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Tom Grabham.

Date: Friday, August 31
Kick-off: 19:05 local (20:05 BST)
Venue: Stadio Comunale di Monigo
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Giuseppe Vivarini (Italy), Andrea Spadoni (Italy)
Television match official: Alan Falzone (Italy)