Planet Rugby

Preview: Zebre v Harlequins

07th December 2012 10:17

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Mike Brown galloping for Harlequins

Returning: Mike Brown

Premiership champions Harlequins will be looking to take a step closer to the Heineken Cup play-offs when they clash with Zebre in Parma on Saturday.

The Pool Three leaders are unbeaten and lead their nearest rivals, Biarritz, by four points and will want to put some distance between themselves and the French side.

The Italian new boys are still looking for their first victory in Europe and play only their third game of Heineken Cup rugby.

Quins will be hoping their recent record of three wins in their last four away games in the tournament, included one in Toulouse, will hold them in good stead in Italy. Harlequins have averaged more time in possession than any other side in the tournament so far this season. Zebre average 202 metres gained per game, the lowest in the tournament this season.

Zebre field a host of Italian internationals, including Mauro Bergamasco, Josh Sole and Quintin Geldenhuys in the line-out with star winger Giovanbattista Venditti offering a main attacking threat on the right wing.

Italy international duo Matteo Pratichetti and Gonzalo Garcia will control things in midfield, whilst Luciano Orquera starts in the fly-half role.

The Italian side are yet to pick up a win in the Heineken Cup in what is their debut season in the competition, having already picked up defeats against group rivals Biarritz and Irish outfit Connacht.

Meanwhile, Mike Brown and Danny Care return from international duty with England for Harlequins to start at full-back and scrum-half respectively, while Matt Hopper is joined in the centres by Tom Casson.

Number eight, Nick Easter, continues as captain in a forward pack that is unchanged from last week's match with Worcester Warriors.

Ugo Monye and Ben Botica return from injury and are named among the replacements. Darryl Marfo and Joe Trayfoot, who replaces the injured Tom Guest, will look to make their Heineken Cup debuts.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Ruggero Trevisan, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Gonzalo Garcia, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Dries van Schalkwyk, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Nicola Cattina, 5 Josh Sole, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 David Ryan, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Salvatore Perugini, 18 Luca Redolfini, 19 Emiliano Caffini, 20 Filippo Ferrarini, 21 Alberto Chillon, 22 Samuele Pace, 23 Paolo Buso.

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Tom Williams, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Tom Casson, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 5 George Robson, 4 Olly Kohn, 3 James Johnston, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements:16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Will Collier, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Joe Trayfoot, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Ugo Monye.

Date: Saturday, December 8
Venue: Stadio XXV Aprile
Kick-off: 14:35 local (13.35 GMT)
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)

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