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Preview: Newport Gwent Dragons v Zebre Rugby

Charlie Davies

Zebre got off to a losing start in Wales for the second straight Guinness PRO12 season but George Biagi has warned they can’t afford more déjà-vu in Newport on Friday.

A year ago the Italians suffered a big defeat to the Cardiff Blues before travelling to Rodney Parade, this time they arrive in Newport fresh from a big defeat to the Ospreys.

In 2015 they produced an improved performance in their second game, going down 13-0 to the Dragons, and had to wait until round five for their first win.

But Biagi insists this season they need to be more competitive early if they are to achieve their pre-season ambitions.

“The Ospreys was a difficult game for us and we had a similar start last year when we had Cardiff then Newport straight away and reacted with a better performance,” the second row told the South Wales Argus.

“We want to put things right on Friday but we can’t just keep reacting to bad results – we have to start seasons better because if we had done that last year then it would have made a big difference in that bottom three (with the Dragons and Treviso).

“We took a while to get going and then won a few games on the trot, so even if it had only been bonus points that we got at the start of the season then we would have been in a better position.

“We know that people are going to talk about us after losing like we did at the Ospreys but we can’t worry about what they say.

“We want to put things right and just have to focus on our performance and build this season, because we will be playing Champions Cup rugby.”

Zebre will take some heart from their last game against the Dragons, as they won 47-22 on the final day of last season.

At Rodney Parade they will welcome back international duo Quintin Geldenhuys and Oliviero Fabiani in their pack while in the backline Carlo Canna returns at fly-half after coming off the bench against the Ospreys.

The Dragons also welcome back international pair Hallam Amos and Tyler Morgan to their backline at full-back and outside centre respectively.

They were also beaten in their first game of the campaign, falling 20-8 to Ulster despite opening the scoring through Pat Howard.

And flanker Nic Cudd admits there was some frustration at the loss, even if he is enjoying life under boss Kingsley Jones.

“It was a good start to the game for us at Ulster but a disappointing second half when we pretty much just defended,” said Cudd.

“It was frustrating after making a good start and going out there with confidence. We played some good rugby in pre-season and we just need to be able to play that for the full 80 minutes, not just the first 30.

“I am enjoying the new style because I get my hands on the ball a bit more; I like a fast game and it suits me more as a smaller player. But from a team point of view we just need to keep it up throughout the game.”

Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record: 

Played 8, Newport Gwent Dragons won 5, Zebre won 2 and 1 game drawn

At Rodney Parade, 7:35pm.
Referee: Lloyd Linton (SRU, 12th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Cammy Rudkin (SRU), Gareth John (WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Jeff Mark (WRU)

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