Preview: Zebre v Dragons

Date published: February 27 2015

Newport Gwent Dragons have made three changes to their team for Sunday's Pro12 clash with Zebre at Stadio Lanfranchi.

In the allterations to the team that narrowly lost out to Connacht at Rodney Parade last weekend, full-back Geraint Rhys Jones returns to the starting XV and replaces Jason Tovey who is unavailable due to a sprained ankle.

Jones is joined in the back three by international wings Tom Prydie and Hallam Amos. The centre pairing of Jack Dixon and Ashley Smith remains the same as last week after impressing the coaches, and they are joined in the backs by fly-half Dorian Jones and scrum-half Jonathan Evans who both retain their places.

The experienced front row remains unchanged as props Boris Stankovich and Brok Harris join hooker and this weekend's captain T. Rhys Thomas.

After making his 100th appearance for the Men of Gwent last weekend off the bench, Ian Gough moves into the starting XV and is joined in the second row by 23-year-old Cory Hill.

The back row from last weekend's clash against Connacht consists of flankers James Thomas and Nic Cudd who join Kiwi number eight  Nick Crosswell.

The replacements bench has three changes made to it as young guns Matthew Screech, Luc Jones and Ashton Hewitt join Rhys Buckley, Lloyd Fairbrother, Dan Way, James Benjamin and Matthew Pewtner.

In the last game played in Parma 12 months ago the Welsh side just escaped from defeat with a late try that fixed the final score as a draw 25-25.

Meanwhile, Zebre are without 10 international players who are with the national team at Murrayfield but can rely on six permit player members of the top Italian division Eccellenza.

For five of them have already worn the Zebre during this year's Six Nations window while number eight Maxime Mbandà from Italian champions Calvisano will earn his first cap with the North-West Italian side.

The 22-year-old back rower will take the field at Stadio Lanfranchi the second time in one week, fresh from winning the Eccellenza Trophy won last Saturday with Parma over Mogliano.

Form: Zebre have lost their last six Guinness PRO12 encounters since beating Edinburgh 18-12 in Parma on 29 November. Zebre’s only two other victories at home this season were against Ulster in September and Brive in January. The Italians have lost all four matches they have played so far against the Welsh Regions this season. Dragons’ only victory in their last four Guinness PRO12 matches was 16-14 over Leinster at the RDS Arena in Round 14. The Dragons have not won successive away games in the tournament since March 2012. Zebre have never beaten Dragons in their five previous meetings, however the two did draw 25-all in Parma in this equivalent fixture last season.

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Hendrik Daniller, 14 Dion Berryman, 13 Mirco Bergamasco, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Giulio Toniolatti, 10 Edoardo Padovani, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Maxime Mbandà, 7 Mauro Bergamasco (c), 6 Jacopo Sarto, 5 Augustin Cavalieri, 4 Andrei Mahu, 3 Lorenzo Romano, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Lorenzo Giovanchelli, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Luca Redolfini, 19 Giacomo Bernini, 20 Ruben Riccioli, 21 Alberto Chillon, 22 Federico Ruzza, 23 David Odiete.

Dragons: 15 Geraint Rhys Jones, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Jack Dixon, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Dorian Jones, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Nick Crosswell, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 James Thomas, 5 Cory Hill, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Brok Harris, 2 T. Rhys Thomas, 1 Boris Stankovich.
Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Lloyd Fairbrother, Dan Way, Matthew Screech, James Benjamin, Luc Jones, Matthew Pewtner, Ashton Hewitt.

Date: Sunday, March 1
Venue: Stadio Lanfranchi
Kick-off: 18:00 local (17:00 GMT)
Referee: Gary Conway (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Elia Rizzo (Italy), Stefano Penne (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Roscini (Italy)