RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Italy
Team: Benetton Treviso
Coach: Franco Smith
Ground: Stadio Comunale di Monigo
Key players in:
Doppies La Grange (Lions), Alberto de Marchi, Simone Favaro and Giulio Toniolatti. (Aironi), Dean Budd (NEC Green Rockets, Japan), Christian Loamanu (Toulon), Bees Roux (Bordeaux)
Key players out:
Carlo Fazzari and Gonzalo Garcia (Zebre), Willem de Waal and Bian Vermaak (Released.)
Last season Treviso were very much the underdogs, but sneaked some impressive victories over the Warrior Nation and Ulster. Their key strength lies in the new faces at Stadio di Monigo. As one of two Italian sides, the profile of the club is getting larger and the support base growing.
Lack of scoring ability and a failure of various kickers last year will be hard to overturn this season. A victory in preseason against Wasps has revitalised the dressing room, but the backline last season leaked tries at an unsustainable rate.
New boy Dean Budd, who has moved from the lucrative Japanese league. The Kiwi flanker will be quick off the scrum and should put pressure on scrum halves throughout the league.
Poor run after Christmas left the Benetton Treviso side languishing in tenth place. Out of the 22 league games they won only 7.
It’s difficult to see a huge change in a side that needed to bring in no fewer than 13 new players this season. Other federations have programmes in place to raise the standard of rugby throughout their specific region. Whilst the F.I.R also has this system they do not seem to enforce it. Prediction? Lowly 11th
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Team: Zebre Rugby
Coach: Alessandro Troncon and Vincenzo Troiani
Ground: Stadio XXV Aprile
Key players: Marco Bortolami, Mauro Bergamasco, Josh Sole, Daniel Halangahu, Giovanbattista Venditti
Assessing the strength of this new team is difficult, but in a recent pre-season friendly with Aviva stalwarts, Northampton Saints, they ran out 30-28 winners. They showed the ability to make line breaks and formed decent defensive lines, and the large number of Italian internationals will bring experience and ability to make them hard to beat at home.
The big unknown for this squad is how they will combine in a competitive match after preseason. The names are there to ensure a good start against the Dragons in Newport, but it is likely to take two to three rounds to get themselves together.
This year’s skipper is Marco Bortolami. The Azzuri captain has had successful spells at Gloucester, reaching the Premiership final, and Aironi. A devastating carrier he will lead this new side from the front and dominate the breakdown.
Not applicable here.
The new players will struggle at times with the pace of the RaboDirect Pro 12, and as previously mentioned defence may be a problem. It’s hard but no better than 12th this year.
Website: www.zebrerugby.com (This is in Italian and the page translation is not the greatest.)
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