Preview: Zebre v Ospreys

Date published: October 2 2014

Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy has opted to bench in-form scrum-half Rhys Webb for their PRO12 clash with Zebre at Stadio XXV Aprile.

Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy has opted to bench in-form scrum-half Rhys Webb for Friday’s PRO12 game against Zebre at Stadio XXV Aprile.

Martin Roberts will start in his place alongside Dan Biggar while Jonathan Spratt and Hanno Dirksen have replaced Andrew Bishop and Eli Walker.

Up front, Lloyd Peers will start alongside Rynier Bernardo in the second-row as Alun-Wyn Jones takes a spot on the bench, with Justin Tipuric and Dan Baker not included in the matchday 23.

“This is another test for us, another 80 minutes where we will find out a lot about the character of this squad. It was a good result in Munster and the attitude and desire displayed was first class. However, it wasn’t all good, and after the match there was a realisation that ill discipline could have lost us that game,” said head coach Tandy.

“There’s been a lot of hard work and some home truths spoken this week, to make sure everyone realises where we need to improve going into this game. In fairness to the group, they are well aware of the need to keep striving for improvement and there is a good attitude in the squad. If we can harness that, keep working hard as a collective, then the squad can continue improving week on week.

“Zebre will be in a good place after their win over Ulster. Having suffered there at the end of last season we know what they are all about and that result didn’t come as a surprise to us. We know that the start we’ve had means nothing when the boys cross the white line on Friday night. We’re expecting a tough, physical contest, and they have some extremely dangerous players so if we aren’t focused on the job in hand they will cause real damage.

“It’ll be another fantastic experience for the youngsters in the team, another environment to challenge them, and we’re going there with feet planted firmly on the ground.”

The Ospreys’ last PRO12 defeat came against Zebre on May 1 at this very venue and with the Italian side entering on the back of beating Ulster, they will be confident of an upset win.

They are boosted by the return from injury of Marco Bortolami, who captains the team in place of the benched Quintin Geldenhuys. Otherwise the forward pack is unchanged.

In the backline, Gonzalo Garcia replaces Kelly Haimona at inside centre while Edoardo Padovani makes way for experienced Italy international Luciano Orquera at number ten.

Form: Zebre ended a run of four successive Guinness PRO12 defeats with their 13-6 win at home to Ulster on Saturday. Zebre have lost only once at Stadio XXV Aprile in their last six matches: 26-41 to Cardiff Blues in round 1 this season. Top of the table Ospreys have won their last five PRO12 matches since Zebre beat them in Parma on 1st May. Ospreys have won only once outside Wales in any tournament over the last twelve months: 19-14 against Munster in Limerick last weekend. Ospreys have won three of the last four encounters with Zebre but have only outscored them by nine tries to eight on aggregate in those fixtures.

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Hendrik Daniller, 14 Giulio Toniolatti, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Filippo Cristiano, 6 Mauro Bergamasco, 5 Marco Bortolami (capt), 4 George Biagi, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Andrea Lovotti, 18 Luciano Leibson, 19 Quintin Geldenhuys, 20 Valerio Bernab