Preview: Zebre v Cardiff Blues

Date published: September 23 2016

Zebre have made three changes to their starting line-up for Saturday's PRO12 clash against Cardiff Blues.

All the changes are among the forwards with flanker Johan Meyer having recovered from his pre-season injury against Bayonne to earn his first official start while prop Andrea Lovotti is back in action after a two weeks suspension.

The third change is the debut for former Lions captain Derick Minnie who will start at numbert eight. Regular captain George Biagi is ruled out of the game after sustaining a light injury against Connacht. Quintin Geldenhuys will lead the team in his absence.

Meanwhile, Cardiff Blues have rung the changes as they target a fourth consecutive PRO12 win.

Following victories over Edinburgh, Munster and Glasgow Warriors, Wales' Capital Region sit third in the Championship table.

Head coach Danny Wilson has made five changes in total but retains plenty of experience for the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi encounter. Rhys Gill, Matthew Rees and Scott Andrews form a new look front-row, Nick Williams returns to number eight and Steven Shingler gets the nod ahead of Gareth Anscombe.

"This is a real test to see where we are mentally. We have proved in three games that we can play some rugby and win some games but we can take nothing away from this venue – because it is still a tough place to play and a tough team – but we are going there with an expectation to win," said Wilson.

While Wilson is determined to see his side maintain their 100 per cent start to the season, he is under no illusions of the magnitude of the task.

With Gethin Jenkins named among the replacements, Sam Warburton will captain the Blues in northern Italy, while Kristian Dacey will make his 100th appearance for the region if he comes off the bench.

Zebre have triumphed on two of the last three visits Cardiff Blues have made on their home patch and will be buoyed by their performance against PRO12 Champions before their match was postponed due to adverse weather conditions last week.

Wilson added: "They are extremely proud of their home venue and home support and they play a sharper game of rugby both in terms of physicality and execution of skill when they are there.

"I've witnessed that a number of times and there are not many teams that go to Zebre and win by big margins. As Welsh regions generally in the last couple of years, we have struggled there. We want to put that right. Last year we didn't go there with the right mind-set and attitude but I'm hoping that won't be the case this year. We have talked about that a lot leading into this game.”

Form: Zebre won their most recent game in Parma 47-22 against the Dragons in round 22 last season but have not won successive matches at the venue since last October. Cardiff Blues only reversal in their last nine PRO12 fixtures was 27-40 to Ospreys at ‘Judgement Day’ in April. The Blues have won on just one of their last seven visits to Italy in the PRO12: 41-26 over Zebre in Parma in September 2014. The two sides have met on eight previous occasions with Zebre recording three victories to equal their best record against one opponent in the Championship, shared with Edinburgh and Treviso.

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Gabriele Di Giulio, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Derick Minnie, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys (c), 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D'Apice, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 20 Jacopo Sarto, 21 Carlo Engelbrecht, 22 Tommaso Castello, 23 Kayle Van Zyl

Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Tom James, 10 Steven Shingler, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Josh Turnbull, 4 George Earle, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Rhys Gill
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Taufa'ao Filise, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Garyn Smith

Date: Saturday, September 24
Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Kick-off: 17:05 local (15:05 GMT)
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Luca Trentin (France)