Preview: Zebre v Cardiff Blues

Date published: September 5 2014

Adam Jones, Josh Turnbull and Manoa Vosawai will all make their debuts for Cardiff Blues against Zebre in Parma on Sunday.

Adam Jones, Josh Turnbull and Manoa Vosawai will all make their debuts for Cardiff Blues against Zebre in Parma on Sunday.

The three summer signings all start as Blues complete Round Obne of the new season at Stadio XXV Aprille in Italy.

Prop Jones packs down alongside captain Matthew Rees and Sam Hobbs in the front row. Turnbull will play at blindside flanker and is part of a powerful back row that includes fellow new boy and Italian international Vosawai plus Sam Warburton.

Rhys Patchell and Lloyd Williams are paired at halfback after impressing together in the final pre-season fixture with Leicester Tigers.

Gavin Evans and Cory Allen will form a midfield partnership while rising star Owen Jenkins is named on the wing for the third PRO12 start of his career. His first start also came in Italy against Benetton Treviso last season.

The replacements include fit-again hooker Kristian Dacey and tighthead prop summer recruit Craig Mitchell.

Director of Rugby Mark Hammett said: “We're looking forward to the first game of the new Guinness PRO12 season against a Zebre team who will no doubt be keen to make a positive start on home soil.

“We need to focus on ourselves and performing; we have real competition for places right across the squad. Every player knows they need to produce in Italy to keep hold of the jersey.”

Captain Matthew Rees added: “We have recruited strongly for this season and the opening game is the chance to make a real statement of intent about what we can achieve this season.

“What has happened in the past with Zebre is gone. We are a new squad now, a new team and we're all looking forward to getting into the serious nature of Guinness PRO12 rugby and showing what we are capable of as a group.”

Meanwhile, full-back Hennie Danniller and outside centre Mirco Bergamasco will make their debuts for Zebre.

The home side will be captained by lock Quintin Geldenhuys who will lead a squad that includes nine other Italian internationals who took part into last summer tour in the South Pacific.

Zebre play in front of their home crowd after four months since the last home game of last season – the win over the Ospreys – which led to four rounds of consecutive unbeaten matches at the Stadio XXV Aprile.

Form: Zebre face the same opposition who were victims of the franchise's first ever victory when they beat Cardiff Blues at the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park 30-25 in round 3 last year. Zebre's last four matches have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst the Italians are unbeaten in Parma in their last four encounters. Cardiff Blues' defeat at the Scarlets in round 22 ended a four-game winning run in the Pro12. The Blues' only victory in their four fixtures with Italian opponents last season came at home to Treviso in round 7.
Zebre achieved the league double over the Blues last season, something that the Blues had inflicted over Zebre in their debut season.

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Dion Berryman, 13 Mirco Bergamasco, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 6 Filippo Ferrarini, 5 George Biagi, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Luciano Leibson, 19 Andries Ferreira, 20 Filippo Cristiano, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Kelly Haimona, 23 Edoardo Padovani.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Owen Jenkins, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Manoa Vosawai 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Chris Dicomidis, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Matthew Rees (c), 1 Sam Hobbs.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Dafydd Hewitt.

Date: Sunday, September 7
Venue: Stadio XXV Aprile
Kickoff: 17.00 (local, 15:00 GMT)
Referee: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Matteo Liperini (Italy), Filippo Bertelli (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Pennè (Italy)