Preview: Zebre v Cardiff Blues

Date published: October 30 2015

Captain Josh Navidi will hit a century of appearances for Cardiff Blues against Zebre in the PRO12 on Saturday.

Navidi, who made his debut for the region back in October 2009, will lead the team out at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in Parma.

Head coach Danny Wilson makes a total of four changes from the starting line-up that claimed a deserved bonus point in Ulster last time out.

USA international back Blaine Scully, an off-season recruit from Leicester Tigers, will make his debut for Cardiff Blues after being named on the wing.

Wales international Tom James also makes a return to the side for his first appearance since the opening day victory over Zebre.

Two changes in the pack see prop Taufa’ao Filise clock up his 199th appearance for Cardiff Blues in the front-row while Ellis Jenkins returns in the number seven shirt. Josh Turnbull, the PRO12 top try-scorer, moves to blindside and skipper Navidi to back-row.

Changes to the replacements bench include a return for scrum-half Lloyd Williams, fresh from his heroics with Wales in the Rugby World Cup, and a call-up for Italian international back-row Manoa Vosawai to face his countrymen.

Samoa international Rey Lee-Lo misses the game due to personal reasons while Jarrad Hoeata, Kristian Dacey, Cory Allen, Gareth Anscombe, Cam Dolan and Gavin Evans are ruled out through injury.

International trio Sam Warburton, Gethin Jenkins and Alex Cuthbert are all rested and given time to recover after Rugby World Cup duty with Wales.

Cardiff Blues opened the season with a 61-13 win over Zebre on the opening day of the season back in September, but Wilson expects a very different challenge his weekend.

"Zebre were depleted when we played them at the start of the season, but we played some excellent rugby that day and really put them to the sword with high tempo and attacking rugby," he said. 

"We want to back that performance up against the same opposition, but we fully expect them to have eight or nine internationals back in from the Rugby World Cup.

"They are a very different team now and beat Edinburgh out in Italy last week which shows what they are capable of.

"It’s the fifth game of a long stint on the road for us and one we want to get a win in.

"We have been very competitive in all four away games in Ireland and the start to the season has given us a real challenge. We now want to finish that run of games off with an away victory."

Meanwhile, Zebre will be looking to back up last week's home win over Edinburgh against a side, as mentioned, they lost to in Round One.

Buoyed by that win over the Scots, the Italians have kept faith with most of the team but have decided to switch Dion Berryman to full-back and Kayle Van Zyl to the right wing.

Giulio Bisegni comes in at outside centre in place of Michele Visentin while Luke Burgess gets promoted to the number nine jersey in place of the benched Marcello Violi.

Up front Zebre have the luxury of naming exactly the same forward pack.

Form: Zebre achieved their ninth victory in Guinness PRO12 history in beating Edinburgh 19-11 on Saturday. In only three of these victories have they also deprived their opponents of even a losing bonus point – all three instances have been against the unfortunate Scotsmen. Cardiff Blues have slipped to four straight PRO12 defeats, but all four loses have been on the road. The Blues only defeat to an Italian opponent in any tournament since March 2014 was on a trip to Treviso in the PRO12 last February. The Blues have already beaten Zebre this season, winning 61-13 at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park, whilst the two sides have met on seven previous occasions in all with Zebre victorious twice, both in season 2013/14.

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Dion Berryman, 14 Kayle Van Zyl, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Jean Cook, 5 George Biagi (c), 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 20 Jacopo Sarto, 21 Marcello Violi, 22 Guglielmo Palazzani, 23 Edoardo Padovani.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Tom Isaacs, 12 Adam Thomas, 11 Tom James, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Josh Navidi (c) 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 James Down, 4 Lou Reed, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Sam Hobbs,
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Garyn Smith.

Date: Saturday, October 31
Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Matteo Liperini (Italy), Stefano Bolzonella (Italy)
Television match official: Alan Falzone (Italy)
Assessor: Gabriele Villari (Italy)