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Zebre look to climb above Italian rivals with win over Dragons

Preview: Zebre Rugby v Newport Gwent Dragons

Zebre Rugby welcome Newport Gwent Dragons to Parma as 12th hosts 10th in Round 19 of the Guinness PRO12 at 2.30pm on Saturday.

Dragons travel to the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in search of their first win since early January while Zebre will be buoyed after their momentous victory over Connacht last time out.

What’s at stake?

After just their second victory of the Guinness PRO12 campaign in their re-arranged Round 3 match – a 25-22 victory over champions Connacht – Zebre could climb above fellow Italian side Treviso with a win and put themselves into a European Champions Cup spot for next season.

Depending on results elsewhere, Dragons fifth win of the season could lift them above rivals Edinburgh into ninth place.

Zebre team news: Head coach Victor Jimenez has made two changes to the side that gained a historic victory over Connacht.

Johan Meyer has recovered from injury to slot into the back row alongside Derick Minnie at openside and Federico Ruzza at No 8.

Try-scorer last time out Edoardo Padovani is other change as he is recalled at full-back with Lloyd Greeff and Kayle Van Zyl joining him in the back three.

Carlo Canna continues to pull the strings wearing the ten jersey and Marcello Violi is retained to start at scum-half.

Newport Gwent Dragons team news: Head coach Kingsley Jones had made three personnel changes and two positional changes to the side that narrowly lost to Ulster at Rodney Park in Round 18.

Pat Howard returns to start on the wing in place of Tom Prydie who drops to the bench. Dragons’ other wing Adam Hughes earns his 100th appearance for the Welsh region.

Prop Phil Price returns to the front row alongside Brok Harris and hooker Rhys Buckley while Cory Hill returns to make his first appearance since returning from international duty.

The back row includes Nick Crosswell moving from the second row to flanker and Ollie Griffiths moving across to open side flanker. Skipper Lewis Evans is named at number 8.

Talking points

Ahead of the clash in Italy, centurion Adam Hughes was delighted at achieving such a historic milestone at the club.

“It means a lot to me. When I left the Dragons a few seasons back I was really gutted that I didn’t get to this milestone, after hitting my 50th in my second season here,” said Hughes.

“So when I had the opportunity to come back it was something that I wanted to reach and now I am absolutely chuffed.”

Key battle: George Biagi v Cory Hill

On his return from international duty with Wales, Cory Hill will want to make an impact in the engine room.

With his presence in the lineout and his sheer volume of carries, Hill will provide a robust boost to the Welsh region that have not won away at Zebre in their last two attempts.

Zebre talisman and captain George Biagi has been a mainstay in the Italian side’s pack all season and will lead his side from the front brimming with confidence after their win last time out.

Biagi will be fully aware of the significance of the game as Zebre seek the Italian representative spot for the European Champions Cup.

Key stat: The last five fixtures between the two side have all been won by the home team on the day, whilst the Dragons only previous victory in Parma was by a single point on their first ever visit in February 2013.

Did you know? Zebre have not won back-to-back matches in the Guinness PRO12 since Christmas 2015.

Zebre top points scorer: Carlo Canna 74 points  Top try scorer: Giovanbattista Venditti, Dries van Schalkwyk 4

Newport Gwent Dragons top points scorer: Angus O’Brien 98 points  Top try scorer: Pat Howard, Sarel Pretorious 4

Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 9, Zebre won 2, Dragons won 6 with 1 game drawn.

At Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, 2.30pm local time (1.30pm uk & Ireland) Live on Eurosport Italy
Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU, 3rd competition game)
Assistant Referees: Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (IRFU), Matteo Liperini (FIR)
Citing Commissioner: Maurizio Vancini (FIR)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)

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