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Cardiff Blues v Calvisano | European Rugby Challenge Cup | Saturday 18th January 2020

Form

Cardiff Blues: LWWLL

Calvisano: LWWLL

The Italian side have had a tough time of it in Europe, but did manage to prevent Leicester getting a bonus point win in Italy before Christmas. Domestically a surprise away defeat to Viadana over Christmas has left them third in the league, six points behind leaders Rovigo.

Cardiff Blues’ loss to Leicester last week leaves quarter-final qualification out of our hands. We need to get five points and win big against Calvisano on Saturday, then hope Pau can’t beat Leicester, before requiring Edinburgh to get two or less points against Agen, or Scarlets to get four or less points against London Irish. Get praying!

Head-to-head

Calvisano 16-38 Cardiff Blues – 16/11/2019

Cardiff Blues 74-6 Calvisano – 22/01/2016

Calvisano 9-50 Cardiff Blues – 14/11/2015

Cardiff Blues 62-20 Calvisano – 23/01/2009

Calvisano 20-56 Cardiff Blues – 11/10/2008

It wasn’t an easy one away in Italy for Cardiff Blues back in November, as Calvisano made us work hard for the victory, but in the end a flurry of late tries secured the all-important bonus point win.

That extends the winning streak over the Italian side to seven games since we first met back in the 2005/06 Heineken Cup.

Team news

Cardiff Blues: Dan Fish, Jason Harries, Rey Lee-Lo, Garyn Smith, Aled Summerhill, Jason Tovey, Lewis Jones; Corey Domachowski, Ethan Lewis, Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, Filo Paulo, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Olly Robinson, Nick Williams (c)

Replacements: Liam Belcher, Rhys Gill, Dmitri Arhip, Macauley Cook, Will Boyde, Lloyd Williams, Ben Thomas, Max Llewellyn

John Mulvihill has opted to make a number of changes to his side, leaving out Josh Navidi, Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans, Owen Lane and Josh Adams who have been called up to the Wales squad, as well as Josh Turnbull who has had a high workload over the last two months. Harri Millard, Matthew Morgan and Hallam Amos have all joined the injury list.

Instead Ethan Lewis will start on his 50th appearance for Cardiff Blues, Nick Williams returns to the team, Lewis Jones and Garyn Smith start for the first time since November, Dan Fish starts for the first time this season and Aled Summerhill makes a welcome return to the wing. Max Llewellyn could make his European debut off the bench.

Calvisano: Alberto Chiesa, Kayle van Zyl, Giacomo De Santis, Damiano Mazza, Marco Susio, Nicolo Casilio, Federico Consoli; Lorenzo Michelini, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Piermaria Leso, Adam Wessels, Davide Zanetti, Alessandro Izekor, Nardo Caslari, Antoine Koffi

Replacements: Gabriele Morelli, Antonio Barducci, Lorenzo Cittadini, Angelo Maurizi, Manuel Zuliani, Fabio Semezato, Michele Regonaschi, Jacopo Trulla

There are six changes to the Calvisano team that was heavily beaten last week with Marco Susio coming in on the wing, Nicolo Casilio at fly-half, Gianmarco Lucchesi and Permaria Leso up front, Davide Zanetti at lock and Alessandro Izekor in the back row.

There is experience dotted throughout the team with Alberto Chiesa and Antoine Koffi former Italy U20 internationals, Kayle van Zyl having spent time at Zebre and Kings, while on the bench Fabio Semezato and Lorenzo Cittadini are both former senior Italy internationals, although at 33 and 37 their best days may be behind them.

Player to watch

Former Italy U20 number eight Antoine Koffi caught the eye at international U20 level over the last two years as an aggressive back row player, and has dropped down a level from Zebre to play for Calvisano this season.

With the absence of Samuela Vunisa in the Italian side’s squad, Koffi will step up to provide that abrasive edge up against the experience of Nick Williams.

What the coaches said

“We want to finish off well, regardless of where it leads us. All we can control is what we do here on Saturday. We want to play really well, we want to build some momentum going into the next block. I think that’s 13 weeks in a row and if we win this weekend that will be seven from 11.

“If we can take good form into some massive games against Edinburgh and Connacht away and Scarlets and Ospreys.

“I’m expecting sunshine on Saturday and a good day to kick-off a little bit earlier so let’s have a festival of rugby and really enjoy a fast pace and tempo. Whatever is going to happen outside us, we can only control is getting our five.”

John Mulvihill, Cardiff Blues Head Coach

The referee

Nika Amashukeli will possibly become the first Georgian referee to take charge of a Cardiff Blues match on Saturday, his fourth in the Challenge Cup this season having enjoyed a breakout 2019.

He became the first Georgian official to be involved in the Six Nations when he officiated England U20 v Italy U20 and went to the World Rugby U20 Championship last summer. Has previously spent time with the WRU’s Referee Development Programme and refereed Welsh Premiership games.

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