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Biagi returns to lead Zebre in Italian Derby

Biagi returns for Italian derby

Zebre host Benetton Treviso at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi at 18.15 (local) on Super Saturday as the two Guinness PRO12 Italian sides do battle for a European Champions Cup spot.

Both sides come into the derby in good form having each won two of their last four league matches and the hosts will be looking to avenge their 23-12 defeat to their compatriots in Round 11.

Whats at stake?

With just one Italian side making it through to the Champions Cup for next season, the derby on Super Saturday is a straight shootout with the winner playing among the continent’s best sides next season.

They are both currently tied on 19 points at the foot of the table but Treviso have more wins across the league season so will qualify in the event that both sides up on drawing on Saturday.

The winning side could also climb as high as tenth in the Guinness PRO12 standings should Newport Gwent Dragons lose to Welsh rivals Cardiff Blues.

Zebre team news: Zebre head coach Gianluca Guidi has made three changes from the side that secured a losing bonus point against Cardiff Blues in Round 21.

Captain George Biagi returns to take his place in the second row alongside Gideon Koegelenberg and dynamic No.8 Dries van Schalkwyk starts with flankers Maxime Mbanda and Jacopo Sarto making up the back row.

Kiwi Kurt Baker takes his place on the wing in the only change to the back line with Carlo Canna and Marcello Violi steering the ship from the half-backs.

Benetton Treviso team news: Kieran Crowley has made two changes to the Treviso side that performed courageously against second-placed Munster last weekend.

Tommaso Iannone replaces Luca Sperandio and starts at outside centre with Tommaso Benvenuti shifting to the wing – David Odiete and Angelo Esposito make up the back three.

Scrum-half Tito Tebaldi replaces Edoardo Gori, who moves to the bench, and links up with fly-half Ian McKinley who has featured in every Treviso match this term.

Captain Dean Budd continues in the second-row with Marco Fuser while Francesco Minto, Abraham Steyn and Robert Barbieri make up the back row.

Key Battle: Carlo Canna v Ian McKinley

After receiving his first international call-up in Italy’s 44-man training squad, Treviso fly-half Ian McKinley will be in buoyant mood when he runs out against Italian rivals Zebre.

His battle with compatriot Carlo Canna will be of great interest to national coach Conor O’Shea as the two men will also battle for an Italian jersey come the summer.

The place kicking of the two fly-halves could prove pivotal in this Italian derby with so much at stake.

With electric wingers outside them, the match could be won and lost on Canna and McKinley’s ability to release their outside backs.

Key Stat: Zebre have won their last two home games, against Connacht and Newport Gwent Dragons but have never won three in succession at home in the Championship.

Did you know? Zebre achieved the season’s double over Benetton Rugby in 2015/16, but Benetton won 23-12 in Treviso in round 11.

Zebre top points scorer: Carlo Canna 90 Top try scorer: Dries van Schalkwyk 5
Benetton Treviso top points scorer: Tommaso Allan 66 Top try scorer: Dean Budd 4

Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 9, Zebre won 3, Benetton won 6.

At Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, 6.15pm (local time). Live on Eurosport
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR – 63rd tournament game)
Assistant Referees: Emanuele Tomo (FIR), Simone Boaretto (FIR).
Citing Commissioner: Alberto Recaldini (FIR)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (FIR).

Match Stats - Lineups