Newport Gwent Dragons and Benetton Treviso face off at Rodney Parade on Friday night at 7:15pm, with eyes firmly on a first win and a momentum-building start to 2017.
Treviso lost out to Glasgow Warriors in a New Year’s Eve thriller, 28-35 on home soil, while it was tough work for the Dragons a day later, missing out on Welsh bragging rights 10-0 to Ospreys.
What’s at stake? The Italian side are four points behind Dragons in the Guinness PRO12 table, safe in the knowledge that a rare win away from home could be enough to leapfrog their opponents into tenth place.
For Dragons, the importance of home form will certainly be on their mind in their bid to catch Edinburgh, who currently sit ninth, three points better off as the second half of the season hots up.
More important for Kingsley Jones’ side will be addressing their three-game losing run in Guinness PRO12 matches, a record that has seen them with just three wins to their name so far.
But it’s Treviso who currently have the stronger recent history, prevailing 27-11 at Stadio Comunale di Monigo back in September, the most recent of two successive victories.
Team news (Newport Gwent Dragons): Jones has made three changes to the side that lost out to Ospreys, with all of them coming in the backs.
Tom Prydie comes in on the wing, while Adam Warren returns at centre. Sarel Pretorius is named in the half-backs to sit alongside Angus O’Brien who retains his place at fly-half.
Team news (Benetton Treviso): Luca Morisi and Angelo Esposito join an ever-growing injury list for Treviso, with Kieran Crowley also deciding to make three changes.
Alberto Sgarbi returns as the captain, while Tito Tebaldi is in at scrum-half and Andrea Pratichetti takes his place on the wing.
Talking points: Scrum half Pretorius came off the bench for the Dragons last weekend, but feels the time is now for both he and the region to show what they are all about at Rodney Parade.
“This week I get a start and it’s a great opportunity for me, so I will do my best. I always try to bring a positive vibe and make a difference when I come on,” said the South African.
“We have a good record at home but we lost unfortunately to the Ospreys. However, it’s a new year now with new goals and we just need to stay positive. I think that we can achieve good things at the Dragons.”
But Treviso flanker Abraham Steyn believes boasts a big chance to upset the applecart on Friday night, with his side taking a lot of confidence from their meeting earlier in the season.
“We are two teams that occupy the bottom of the league and I think we both see in this game a chance to score points.
“It will surely be a completely different game to the first leg, we will have to face them with the knowledge that even outside the home can we show our strength.”
Key Battle: Angus O’Brien and Tommaso Allan head to Rodney Parade locked on 63 points for the season, enough to see the pair eighth in the Guinness PRO12 season for points scored.
The two have the ability to single-handedly take games away from their opponent – as Allan showed in Treviso’s victory over Zebre last month – with the prevailing fly-half likely to have a big say in the direction of the match.
Key stat: Treviso have won their last two encounters with Dragons but these were played at Stadio Monigo, the Italians have not been victorious at Rodney Parade since a single point triumph in April 2012.
Did you know? Treviso won their most recent away game 28-15 in Bayonne in the European Challenge Cup but have not won successive matches on their travels since 2011, whilst their most recent victory on the road in the Guinness PRO12 was 26-16 at Zebre in December 2014.
Top Points Scorer: Angus O’Brien 63pts. Top Try Scorer: Pat Howard 4
Top Points Scorer: Tommaso Allan 63pts. Top Try Scorer: Dean Budd 4
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 13, Dragons won 6, Treviso win 7.
At Rodney Parade, 7.15pm.
Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU, 2nd competition game)
Assistant Referees: Sam Grove-White (SRU), Sean Brickell (WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Jeff Mark (WRU)
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final