Preview: Zebre v Cardiff Blues

28th Feb 2014, 12:33

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Returns: Rory Watts-Jones

Returns: Rory Watts-Jones

Flanker Rory Watts-Jones returns to the XV as Cardiff Blues travel to Zebre in the RaboDirect PRO12 at Stadio XXV Aprile on Saturday.

Flanker Rory Watts-Jones returns to the starting XV as Cardiff Blues travel to Zebre in the RaboDirect PRO12 at Stadio XXV Aprile on Saturday.

Watts-Jones, who recently inked a new long-term deal, is one of three changes to the starting side as the Blues look for a return to winning ways.

Tom Williams is called up at full-back, with Dan Fish moving to the wing, while the other change sees Chris Dicomidis named in the second-row.

Wales international lock Lou Reed could make his comeback after four months ruled out as he is named among the replacements.

Prop Benoit Bourrust, back-row Ellis Jenkins and centre Dafydd Hewitt are also on the bench.

"It's a huge game for us and there is absolutely no hiding away from that fact. It is the last of a four-game stretch when we wanted to climb the table and so only a victory is good enough," said director of rugby Phil Davies.

"The effort from the players over the last few weeks has been great, but there are periods in matches where we drop off our standards.

"We have played teams in the top four in recent weeks and you have to play for 80 minutes. We ran Leinster close for 40 minutes but a few lapses and they were gone. That cost us and we have got to stop that happening.

"This weekend we have got to play for 80 minutes in Italy. If we do that we are starting to create and score more tries so can get the result we all want."

Meanwhile, Zebre will hand a RaboDirect PRO12 debut to young South African flanker Abraham Steyn, who joins Samuela Vunisa and Filippo Ferrarini in Saturday's back-row.

Kelli Haimona starts at fly-half alongside Brendon Leonard while on the bench there is Italy international Luciano Orquera.

Zebre are without Mauro Bergamasco, Paolo Buso, Nicola Cattina, Filippo Cristiano, Tommaso D'Apice, Andrea Manici, Matteo Pratichetti, Roberto Quartaroli and Luca Redolfini for this match.

Form: Zebre have the opportunity to achieve their first season's double over any opponent in the RaboDirect PRO12, having beaten the Blues 30-25 at the Arms Park in round 3. Cardiff Blues have won just one of their last eight matches in the PRO12: 21-13 at home to the Dragons on New Year's Day. The Blues are one of only three sides remaining in the PRO12 who have failed to win an away game in the competition this season. The Welshmen were victorious on their first eight visits to Italy in all tournaments before losing and then drawing with Treviso in the PRO12 in both visits in 2013.

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Guglielmo Palazzani, 14 Giulio Toniolatti, 13 Kameli Ratuvou, 12 Tommaso Iannone, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Kelli Haimona, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Filippo Ferrarini, 5 George Biagi 4 Andries van Schalkwyk (capt), 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Luigi Ferraro 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Sami Panico, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 David Ryan 19 Filippo Cazzola, 20 Emiliano Caffini, 21 Luciano Orquera, 22 Tommaso Castello, 23 Ruggero Trevisan.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Tom Williams, 14 Harry Robinson, 13 Isaia Tuifua, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Dan Fish, 10 Gareth Davies, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Rory Watts-Jones, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Chris Dicomidis, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Sam Hobbs (c).
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Benoit Bourrust, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Simon Humberstone, 23 Dafydd Hewitt.

Date: Saturday, March 1
Kick-off: 16:00 local (15:00 GMT)
Venue: Stadio XXV Aprile
Referee: Gary Conway (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Marius Mitrea (Italy), Claudio Blessano (Italy)
Television match official: Carlo Damasco (Italy)
Timekeeper: Giannino Cappellozza (Italy)
Assessor: Mauro Dordolo (Italy)