The eighth round of the PRO14 continues on Saturday with the 1872 Cup match between Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh at Scotstoun the standout game.
Zebre v Benetton
Zebre head coach Michael Bradley has rung the changes to his run-on side for their Italian derby with Benetton at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in Parma.
In the back-line, there are six changes, including a couple of positional switches, with Edoardo Padovani shifting from the left wing to full-back where he replaces Junior Laloifi while James Elliott takes Padovani’s position out wide. In the only other change to the back three Paula Balekana comes in for Pierre Bruno on the right wing.
Elsewhere, Giulio Bisegni replaces Elliott at outside centre and Bisegni also takes over the captaincy from Tommaso Boni, who lines up at inside centre. There is a new half-back pairing with Carlo Canna and Marcello Violi preferred to Michelangelo Biondelli and Josh Renton.
In the forwards, Giovanni Licata starts at number eight and he takes over from Jimmy Tuivaiti, who moves to the blindside flank while Johan Meyer shifts to the openside flank.
In the second-row, Ian Nagle replaces Samuele Ortis while there’s a new front-row with Giosuè Zilocchi and Danilo Fischetti the starting props and Luca Bigi packs down at hooker.
Meanwhile, Benetton boss Kieran Crowley has also made changes despite an impressive win over Lyon in the Champions Cup last week.
Bradley has made most of his alterations to his forwards with Toa Halafihi starting at number eight which means Abraham Steyn moves to the openside flank where he replaces Giovanni Pettinelli.
Niccolò Cannone replaces Irné Herbst at lock while Marco Riccioni and Federico Zani come in for Tiziano Pasquali and Cherif Traore as the starting props.
Amongst the backs, Angelo Esposito starts on the right wing while Leonardo Sarto moves to the other flank where he replaces Monty Ioane. The side will be captained by scrum-half Dewaldt Duvenhage, who forms a half-back partnership with Ian Keatley.
— Benetton Rugby 🦁 (@BenettonRugby) December 20, 2019
Zebre: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Paula Balekana, 13 Giulio Bisegni (c), 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 James Elliott, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Giovanni Licata, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Jimmy Tuivaiti, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Giosuè Zilocchi, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Danilo Fischetti
Replacements: 16 Marco Manfredi, 17 Andrea Lovotti, 18 Alexandru Tarus, 19 David Sisi, 20 Maxime Mbandà, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Michelangelo Biondelli, 23 Charlie Walker
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Ratuva Tavuyara, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (c), 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Federico Zani
Replacements: 16 Engjel Makelara, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18 Cherif Traore, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Marco Lazzaroni, 21 Marco Barbini, 22 Tito Tebaldi, 23 Antonio Rizzi
Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Kick-off: 16:00 local (15:00 GMT)
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi (Italy), Gianlucca Gnecchi (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Pennè (Italy)
Dragons v Scarlets
Wales international back-row Ross Moriarty is set for his first appearance of the season in the Dragons’ PRO14 derby with Scarlets at Rodney Parade on Saturday.
Moriarty is named among the replacements for the huge home clash and could appear for Dragons for the first time since May – when he also faced Scarlets at Judgement Day.
Dragons boss Dean Ryan makes one change to the starting line-up that defeated Worcester Warriors in the Challenge Cup last Friday.
Taine Basham – after a one-game suspension – comes into the back-row to wear the seven jersey, with Ollie Griffiths ruled out through injury.
Several changes on the bench include the return of Samoa international lock Brandon Nansen. Prop Lloyd Fairbrother and scrum-half Tavis Knoyle are also named as replacements.
Meanwhile, Scarlets skipper Ken Owens takes over the captaincy for his first appearance of the season in this Welsh derby.
Wales hooker Owens and international team-mate Hadleigh Parkes become the latest World Cup players to return to action in a side showing seven changes from last weekend’s Challenge Cup hammering of Bayonne.
Johnny McNicholl, after being rested for that 46-5 victory, is back in the ranks and is named on the wing, with Leigh Halfpenny and Steff Evans making up the rest of the back three.
Like Owens, Parkes will make his Scarlets seasonal bow and links up with Steff Hughes in midfield. Hughes has started every match for the side this season.
Dan Jones gets the nod at fly-half for his 99th appearance in a Scarlets jersey, partnering Wales international Gareth Davies at half-back.
There is an all-international front-row on show with Owens packing down in between Wyn Jones and Samson Lee, who has been passed fit following a shoulder issue.
Jake Ball and Sam Lousi continue in the second-row, while in the back-row Aaron Shingler has recovered from the knee injury he picked up on international duty against the Barbarians and slots in alongside number eight Uzair Cassiem and the recalled Josh Macleod.
Rob Evans has a neck problem so former Dragon Phil Price comes onto the bench, as does Fiji international Tevita Ratuva following his three-week suspension. Blade Thomson provides further Test experience among the replacements.
Scarlets go into round eight of the PRO14 in fourth place in the Conference B standings with a record of five wins and two defeats.
🎥 TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT / CYHOEDDIAD TÎM 🎥
Here's your team taking on Dragons in the first of the Guinness PRO14 festive derbies at Rodney Parade. KO: 17:15, Sat 21st December.
— Scarlets Rugby (@scarlets_rugby) December 20, 2019
Dragons: 15 Will Talbot-Davies, 14 Owen Jenkins, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhodri Williams (c), 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Cory Hill, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Joe Davies, 2 Leon Brown, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Brok Harris
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Brandon Nansen, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Jacob Botica, 23 Tyler Morgan
Scarlets: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Steff Hughes, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Josh Macleod, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens (c), 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Phil Price, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Tevita Ratuva, 20 Blade Thomson, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Corey Baldwin
Venue: Rodney Parade
Kick-off: 17:15 GMT
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Mike English (Wales), Gareth John (Wales)
TMO: Ian Davies (Wales)
Connacht v Munster
Ireland international Quinn Roux will captain Connacht as his side face Munster in their PRO14 derby at the Sportsground in Galway on Saturday.
With just one point separating the two sides at the summit of Conference B, the top-of-the-table clash takes on extra significance for the second-row as he is set to make his 100th appearance for the province.
Connacht also go into the game boosted by the news that Tiernan O’Halloran has returned from injury and will start at full-back. He is part of a back three with John Porch and Kyle Godwin on the wings.
In the Connacht midfield, Tom Daly has forced his way into the starting team alongside Bundee Aki. While Conor Fitzgerald continues his half-back partnership with Caolin Blade, who has now featured in all 11 of Connacht’s games so far this season.
In the forwards, the tight five has a very familiar look – props Denis Buckley and Finlay are included in the starting team as is hooker Dave Heffernan. Ultan Dillane will line up alongside Roux in the second-row.
In the back-row, Eoghan Masterson and Paul Boyle are named at blindside and openside respectively with Eoin McKeon at number eight. Captain Jarrad Butler has been ruled out due to illness.
Meanwhile, there are 10 changes to the Munster team that faced Saracens last weekend with four Munster Academy players named in the squad.
Craig Casey makes his first PRO14 start at scrum-half having previously featured twice off the bench and Dave Kilcoyne returns from injury to start in the front-row.
Academy winger Liam Coombes makes his fourth PRO14 appearance and starts alongside cousin Gavin Coombes for the first time in the PRO14.
CJ Stander retains his place and the captaincy with Chris Farrell, JJ Hanrahan, Jean Kleyn and Billy Holland also keeping their places in the starting XV.
Shane Daly is named at full-back with Calvin Nash and Liam Coombes on either flank.
Dan Goggin and Farrell pair up in the centres with Casey and Hanrahan in the half-backs.
Kilcoyne, Kevin O’Byrne and Stephen Archer start in the front-row with the second-row partnership of Kleyn and Holland unchanged.
Gavin Coombes, Chris Cloete and Stander complete the side.
Academy players Diarmuid Barron, Keynan Knox and Ben Healy – who have all featured in the PRO14 already this season – are included among the replacements. Jeremy Loughman returns from injury to take his place on the bench.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 John Porch, 13 Tom Daly, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Kyle Godwin, 10 Conor Fitzgerald, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Paul Boyle, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Quinn Roux (c), 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Conor Kenny, 18 Dominic Robertson McCoy, 19 Joe Maksymiw, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 Stephen Kerins, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Stephen Fitzgerald
Munster: 15 Shane Daly, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Dan Goggin, 11 Liam Coombes, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Craig Casey, 8 CJ Stander (c), 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Gavin Coombes, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Kevin O’Byrne, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Keynan Knox, 19 Fineen Wycherley, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Neil Cronin, 22 Ben Healy, 23 Sammy Arnold
Venue: The Sportsground
Kick-off: 17:15 GMT
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
Glasgow Warriors v Edinburgh
A matchday squad containing 17 internationals will take to the pitch in front of a sold-out Scotstoun on Saturday night, as Glasgow Warriors welcome Edinburgh for the opening match of this season’s 1872 Cup.
Nine players that started April’s 34-10 victory over the Scottish capital outfit will once again be running out in a Warriors shirt, as Dave Rennie’s men look to reclaim the trophy from their cross-country rivals.
Aki Seiuli continues at loosehead prop after making his first start for the club last weekend, with Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson packing down alongside the New Zealander.
Scott Cummings and Jonny Gray start in the second-row, the third successive match for which the pair have been selected in the engine room.
Ryan Wilson shifts from blindside flanker to number eight in order to accommodate Rob Harley, as Callum Gibbins continues at openside to complete the back-row.
Behind the scrum there’s a return to the starting line-up for George Horne, the scrum-half lining up alongside Adam Hastings at half-back.
Huw Jones retains his place at outside centre, partnering fellow Scotland international Sam Johnson in the midfield.
Tommy Seymour – fresh from signing a contract extension earlier this week – is selected on the wing along with Kyle Steyn, with Ruaridh Jackson coming into the side to start at full-back.
Oli Kebble makes a return to the matchday squad after being named amongst the replacements, as he joins George Turner and Adam Nicol as the front-row reinforcements.
Harley’s inclusion in the starting XV sees Adam Ashe come onto the bench, with Tom Gordon continuing in the number 20 jersey.
Ali Price is named as the replacement scrum-half, as Nick Grigg and Niko Matawalu complete the Glasgow bench.
Meanwhile, Duhan van der Merwe returns to make his 50th appearance for Edinburgh as head coach Richard Cockerill make 10 changes to his starting line-up.
The wing gets the nod in a reshuffled back-line with Scotland internationalists Blair Kinghorn, Mark Bennett and Henry Pyrgos all named in the starting XV.
An all-new tight-five sees props Pierre Schoeman and Pietro Ceccarelli, hooker Stuart McInally and locks Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis return to the fray, while Magnus Bradbury starts at blindside flanker.
A revamped back-three sees Kinghorn named at full-back with wingers Van der Merwe and Darcy Graham selected on opposite flanks.
Centre George Taylor – who this week penned a contract extension with the club – is paired with Bennett in midfield, as scrum-half Pygros returns to link-up with fly-half Simon Hickey at half-back.
Club captain McInally packs down alongside props Schoeman and Ceccarelli in the front-row, with Scotland lock duo Toolis and Gilchrist named in the second-row.
The inclusion of Bradbury at blindside flanker is the only alteration to an otherwise unchanged back-row as Hamish Watson and Viliame Mata complete the pack.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Ruaridh Jackson, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Kyle Steyn, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 George Horne, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Callum Gibbins (c), 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Aki Seiuli
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Adam Nicol, 19 Adam Ashe, 20 Tom Gordon, 21 Ali Price, 22 Nick Grigg, 23 Niko Matawalu
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 George Taylor, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Stuart McInally (c), 1 Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Lewis Carmichael, 20 Jamie Ritchie, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 James Johnstone
Kick-off: 17:45 GMT
Referee: Ben Blain (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Sam Grove-White (Scotland), Hollie Davidson (Scotland)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Ospreys v Cardiff Blues
Ospreys captain Justin Tipuric returns to skipper the side in his first match of the season, against Cardiff Blues at the Liberty Stadium.
Cai Evans retains the full-back jersey from last weekend, and a change on both wings sees Luke Morgan and Hanno Dirksen make up the back three.
Scott Williams and Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler form the centre partnership, with Marty McKenzie and Aled Davies lining up as the half-backs. Last week’s try-scorer Shaun Venter provides the cover off the bench, alongside Luke Price and Kieran Williams.
The front-row is unchanged from last week as Nicky Smith and Ma’afu Fia pack down either side of Scott Otten, who will make his 100th appearance for the Ospreys.
Adam Beard holds onto the number four shirt partnering up with Bradley Davies in the second-row. Workhorse Lydiate starts on the blindside alongside Tipuric marshalling the openside, with Olly Cracknell at number eight to complete the pack.
Young Morgan Morris provides solid reinforcements on the bench, alongside Marvin Orie. Dewi Lake, Rhys Fawcett and Simon Gardiner complete the 23.
Meanwhile, Josh Adams will make his PRO14 debut as Cardiff Blues make two changes for the festive derby.
John Mulvihill has named an unchanged backline as Wales’ capital region travel to Swansea on Saturday, seeking a third successive Championship victory.
Welsh international Adams featured in the back-to-back European fixtures against Pau, scoring a debut hat-trick against the French outfit.
The Rugby World Cup top try-scorer is joined in the back three by Owen Lane, who also crossed for a hat-trick against the Top 14 side, and Matthew Morgan, who will wear the number 15 jersey against his former side.
Ben Thomas and Rey Lee-Lo continue their partnership in midfield, with Jarrod Evans and Tomos Williams featuring at half-back.
One change in the front-row sees Brad Thyer introduced at loosehead to make his 50th PRO14 appearance.
James Ratti also returns to the pack to face his former region, as Josh Turnbull joins Shane Lewis-Hughes and skipper Will Boyde in the back-row.
Olly Robinson is named amongst the replacements, while Macauley Cook is reintroduced into the matchday 23 and adds to an already experienced bench.
Another look at your Cardiff Blues side to take on @ospreys at Liberty Stadium on Saturday, as the festive derbies kick off!
— Cardiff Blues (@cardiff_blues) December 20, 2019
Ospreys: 15 Cai Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Olly Cracknell, 7 Justin Tipuric (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 2 Scott Otten, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Rhys Fawcett, 18 Simon Gardiner, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Morgan Morris, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Luke Price, 23 Kieran Williams
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Josh Turnbull, 7 Will Boyde (c), 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 James Ratti, 4 Filo Paulo, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Brad Thyer
Replacements: 16 Liam Belcher, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Olly Robinson, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Hallam Amos
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant referees: Gareth Newman (Wales), Chris Morgan (Wales)
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)