Preview: Zebre v Dragons

Date published: March 28 2014

Zebre have been boosted by the return of their Italian internationals for Saturday's clash with the Dragons in Parma.

Zebre have been boosted by the return of their Italian internationals for Saturday's clash with the Dragons in Parma.

There are a total of seven Azzurri players in the run-on side alongside experienced stalwarts like Salvatore Perugini and former All Black Brendon Leonard.

The Zebre boys are chasing another victory over a Welsh side after gaining the double in the season over the Cardiff Blues. The Italian north-west club are in hunt for historical first consecutive home wins as captain Marco Bortolami and his team-mates defeated Wales' capital side one month ago in Parma.

In front of the home crowd, Zebre have got two wins this season and are very focused to retaining an unbeaten run at home until the end of the PRO12 season where they host Dragons, Edinburgh and Ospreys in the race against Treviso for the national lead which will be necessary to play into next main Heineken Cup.

After a week of rest Italy's backs Sarto, Garcia and Orquera are back into Zebre's starting line-up along with lock Geldenhuys – one of the only three Azzurri who played all the 400 minutes of the last Six Nations. The lock forward will strengthen the Zebre pack who will face a strong battle as the Dragons want to cancel their bad scrum and maul performances of the last fixture, the home loss to Connacht who cost to Lyn Jones side the eighth place.

Meanwhile Dragons director of rugby Lyn Jones has made seven changes to his side for this encounter.

Amongst the backs, Dan Evans retains his place at full-back and is joined in the back three by Welsh internationals Tom Prydie and Will Harries who also retain their places.

The centre pairing is all change as it gets a facelift with Pat Leach and Ashley Smith, as Ross Wardle is left out of selection and Jack Dixon is moved to the bench. Fly-half Jason Tovey remains in at number ten and Richie Rees also retains his place as scrum-half.

Up front, Jones has named a new front row consisting of prop Phil Price, Wales U20s hooker Elliot Dee and newcomer Duncan Bell. Skipper Andrew Coombs keeps his place in the second row but is joined by young gun Matthew Screech, as Rob Sidoli sits this game out.

The back row sees one change with the addition of British and Irish lion Taulupe Faletau, who makes his first start for the Dragons after returning from international duty. The number eight joins flankers Lewis Evans and Nic Cudd who both keep their places from last weekend.

There have been seven changes made to the replacements as Sam Parry, Bruce Douglas, Nathan Buck, Cory Hill, Jevon Groves, Jack Dixon and Hallam Amos all join Wayne Evans.

Form: Zebre's only victory in their last five PRO12 matches came against Cardiff Blues in Parma two rounds ago. Zebre are attempting to win back-to-back home games for the first time in their history. Dragons have also won only one of their last five PRO12 contests: 24-23 at home to Glasgow in round 15. The Dragons only away victory in the competition since they visited Zebre last year was when they beat Glasgow at Scotstoun on 22nd November.The Welsh region have won all three previous encounters with Zebre but only won by the narrowest of margins, 14-13 on their only previous visit to Stadio XXV Aprile in round 16 last season.

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Guglielmo Palazzani, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Dion Berryman, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Andries van Schalkwyk, 6 Filippo Ferrarini, 5 Marco Bortolami (c), 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 David Ryan, 2 Davide Giazzon, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D'apice, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Emiliano Caffini, 20 Filippo Cristiano, 21 David Odiete, 22 Giovanbattista Venditti, 23 Kameli Ratuvou.

Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Will Harries, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Taulupe Faletau. 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Lewis Evans, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Andrew Coombs (c), 3 Duncan Bell, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Bruce Douglas, 18 Nathan Buck, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Jevon Groves, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Jack Dixon, 23 Hallam Amos.

Date: Saturday 29th March
Venue: Stadio XXV Aprile
Kick-off: 16:00 local, 15:00 GMT
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ire)
Assistant referees: Matteo Liperini, Elia Rizzo (both Ita)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Ita)