Rugby: Edinburgh hunt big game Zebras
The Zebras have taken over from the Herons (Aironi) in the menagerie that is Italian rugby and Edinburgh face the newest member of the RaboDirect Pro12 at Murrayfield on Friday. So what can they expect?
With 19 Aironi players having made the short hop down the road from Viadana to Parma the answer is probably much the same as last year. While Italy’s other club, Treviso, have done respectably, Aironi seemingly only existed to make opposition attack coaches feel good. In their debut season (2010-11) Aironi managed just one win. Last year they improved that number to four victories, one of which came against Edinburgh, but, at the end of season, Airnoi’s points differential was still 123 worse than the next-placed club. The undoubted highlight of Aironi’s brief life was beating Biarritz, the Heineken Cup holders, by a single point back in December of 2010. Their low points are too many to list in any detail but leaking 82 points to Clermont in last year’s Heineken Cup, and in front of a home crowd, can’t have been much fun. If their fate hadn’t already been decided it surely was after that humiliation.
Many of the players have moved across to Zebre but the club has a new head coach in the form of Frenchman Christian Gajan, who has the support of Alessandro Troncon and Fabio Ongaro. They both have countless caps for Italy and know what it takes to win. The new club will play at the XXV Aprile Stadium in the historic town of Parma, a fantastic venue for a weekend away, and the home of Italy’s national coach Jacques Brunel – which makes life easy for him.
Gonzalo Garcia has quit Treviso to lead the new team, which boasts some classy names in Marco Bortolami, “Toto” Perugini, Quintin Geldenhuys, Josh Sole and the old warrior Mauro Bergamasco. But, according to Bortolami, who has been around the block often enough not to get lost, we should be concentrating on some of the bright young stars of the future rather than the dad’s army of veterans.
“Names like Davide Giazzon, Filippo Cazzola, Nicola Belardo, David Odiete, Alberto Benettin, Luca Martinelli, may not mean much to you at present but they will bring freshness and spirit,” said the former Italian skipper in a recent interview.
Certainly some will recognise the name of Zebre’s promising 22-year-old winger Giovanbattista Venditti, who scored the winning try against Scotland in Rome earlier this year after opening his international account against England. But, while they may boast a competitive-looking line-up, the new team were an awful lot like the old one once the season started. They conceded the bonus-point fourth try to the Dragons inside the first 40 minutes.
Incidentally, the Zebre name comes from an invitational XV from the amateur era with some success. The old Zebre beat Eastern Counties (1975), Newport (1977), Cardiff (1978), Ulster (1986) and, the best scalp of all, the Barbarians in 1997. The new club would give their right hoof to match those sort of results this season.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west