Match-Up | Benetton v Edinburgh
Benetton and Edinburgh meet in Treviso as two of the heavyweights in Conference B of the Guinness PRO14 are placed on collision course in Round 17. A potential cracker could be in the offing as two talented teams go head-to-head.
What’s at stake?
A crucial clash in the battle for Conference B’s Guinness PRO14 Final Series berths is on the cards as in-form Benetton roll out the red carpet for Edinburgh.
Unbeaten in eight successive matches in all competitions, Kieran Crowley’s troops begin Round 17 four points ahead of Edinburgh and two in front of Ulster, who are third.
Richard Cockerill’s visitors, who were edged out at home by Cardiff Blues last time out, will be looking to reel in their rivals as the regular season winds down towards its conclusion.
Team news (Benetton)
Luca Sperandio is given the nod at full-back whilst on the wings, Ratuva Tavuyara and Monty Ioane are set to be unleashed.
Skipper Alberto Sgarbi is partnered by Marco Zanon in the centres while Ian McKinley starts at fly-half, with Marco Lazzaroni, Giovanni Pettinelli and Toa Halafihi named as Crowley’s back-row trio.
Team news (Edinburgh)
Scotland internationals Hamish Watson and WP Nel will be back in the thick of the action as Edinburgh attempt to stop Benetton in their tracks.
Watson and Nel return from injury whilst scrum-half Henry Pyrgos and centre Chris Dean are both also included, having sat out their team’s loss to the Blues due to their international commitments – Pyrgos is also named as captain.
Tom Brown is named at full-back but Edinburgh won’t be able to count on Duhan van der Merwe and Viliame Mata, who are both ruled out.
Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill said: “It’s a huge game for us and it’s a huge game in the context of the conference.
“We’ve had a couple of defeats in the last few games and they are four points above us. We need to win.
“It will be a very tough match, but the momentum of our season will swing if we can go there and win.
“That’s the reality of the game and that’s our objective. We’ve got to be hungry to go there and win.”
Key battle – Monty Ioane v Jack Blain
With 16 rounds of the 2018-19 Guinness PRO14 done and dusted, only three players have beaten more opposition defenders than Benetton winger Monty Ioane – and one of them won’t be playing this weekend.
The Australian flyer has been a star performer for the men from Treviso so far this term, who has left 39 defenders trailing in his wake so far.
Benetton have won their last six home matches in all competitions, with their last loss coming at the hands of Ulster in Round Eight.
Did you know?
Edinburgh have won their last two matches against Benetton whilst their overall records on visits to Stadio Monigo is split evenly – four wins and four losses.
Lining up in the opposite No.11 shirt will the prodigiously-talented teenager Jack Blain, a member of Scotland’s Under-20 Six Nations squad.
Can youngster Blain make his presence felt, particularly in the absence of Van der Merwe, who tops the ‘defenders beaten’ column (61).
TV: At Stadio Monigo, Treviso, 3pm. Live on Premier Sports 2 and DAZN
Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)
Assistant Referees: Andrea Piardi (FIR), Kieran Barry (IRFU)
TMO: Alan Falzone (FIR)