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Benetton v Cardiff Blues | Guinness Pro14 | Saturday 30th November 2019

Form

Benetton: WWLLL

Cardiff Blues: LLWWL

A slow start to the season while lacking their Italy internationals at the Rugby World Cup cost Benetton early as they opened up with three losses, but back-to-back victories over Edinburgh and Southern Kings gave them a bit of confidence.

Two defeats in the Heineken Champions Cup wasn't ideal but a strong performance last week should really have resulted in a win, only for the English side to snatch a 32-35 victory with the help of some suspect refereeing.

Head-to-head

Cardiff Blues 56-8 Benetton - 25/03/2016

Benetton 28-34 Cardiff Blues - 04/11/2016

Cardiff Blues 57-20 Benetton - 18/02/2017

Cardiff Blues 31-25 Benetton - 16/03/2018

Benetton 27-25 Cardiff Blues - 08/09/2018

Cardiff Blues have generally had success against Benetton over the years, with 11 wins and a draw coming from the 16 games between the teams, but a lot of these games have taken place during international windows.

The Italians emerged victorious in a game outside of the international window last season, albeit being on the right side of some suspect refereeing that day, and have won four of the seven games between the sides in Southern Europe.

Team news

Benetton: Jayden Hayward, Ratuva Tavuyara, Ignacio Brex, Alberto Sgarbi (c), Monty Ioane, Tommaso Allan, Dewaldt Duvenage; Nicola Quaglio, Hame Faiva, Marco Riccioni, Irné Herbst, Eli Snyman, Marco Lazzaroni, Abraham Steyn, Toa Halafihi

Replacements: Federico Zani, Cherif Traore, Tiziano Pasquali, Niccolò Cannone, Federico Ruzza, Tito Tebaldi, Ian Keatley, Luca Sperandio

There are just four changes to the starting XV which pushed Northampton so close last week with Alberto Sgarbi returning to captain the side at centre, Nicola Quaglio packing down at loosehead, Irne Herbst getting the nod at lock and Marco Lazzaroni being selected at blindside flanker.

Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan, Aled Summerhill, Rey Lee-Lo, Garyn Smith, Hallam Amos, Jason Tovey, Lloyd Williams (c); Brad Thyer, Kirby Myhill, Scott Andrews, James Ratti, Macauley Cook, Josh Turnbull, James Botham, Will Boyde

Replacements: Liam Belcher, Rhys Gill, Keiron Assiratti, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Alun Lawrence, Lewis Jones, Ben Thomas, Jason Harries

Injuries and international selections have hit John Mulvihill's squad hard with 17 players not available to him for the trip this weekend.

Eight changes to the starting XV include James Ratti making his full Cardiff Blues debut, James Botham making his first Guinness Pro14 starts and Jason Tovey and Hallam Amos making their first league starts since signing from Dragons over the summer.

Player to watch

There are dangers all over the pitch in this Benetton side, particularly in an exciting back three, but my player to watch is Braam Steyn at openside flanker. Now an experienced international level operator with Italy, his match up against the young James Botham will be a key area of the field on Saturday.

What the coaches said

“We know it’s going to be a tough challenge out in Treviso this week, against a fully-blown Benetton team, but there’s a big opportunity for a lot of boys to make a statement and force their way into selection decisions ahead of a crucial period of the season.

“We have a vital European double-header against Pau to come, as well as the festive derbies, and those are the games that everyone wants to be involved in. It’s an exciting period for us.

“Results haven’t quite gone our way at times this season, but each loss has come down to fine margins. That’s why our focus remains on putting in a good performance, because that will put us in the best possible position to get a win out in Italy.

“We’ve got some experienced boys in there, like Jason Tovey, Lloyd Williams, Scott Andrews, Macauley Cook and Josh Turnbull, and we’ll be looking for these boys to lead from the front and drive the performance.

“It was a disappointing result for everyone involved with the region last week, but this week we’ll shift our focus back to the PRO14 and we see it as a good opportunity to bounce back against a tough Benetton side.”

John Mulvihill, Cardiff Blues Head Coach

The referee

Andrew Brace was actually born in Cardiff and previously worked for Cardiff Blues as a Community Development Officer, but has spent his entire refereeing career in Ireland and is now one of their top officials.

Having returned from being part of the refereeing team at the Rugby World Cup he took charge of two Heineken Champions Cup games over the last weekend and will now referee a Cardiff Blues game for the first time since Boxing Day 2017 when we beat Dragons at Rodney Parade.

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