Canna key to Zebre’s best moments

Zebre got off to a strong start in the Guinness PRO14, winning two of their opening three matches.

But Michael Bradley’s men fell away, winning just once in their following 18 fixtures as they ended up bottom of Conference A.

Still they claimed impressive scalps of Edinburgh Rugby and Cardiff Blues at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi this term, where they have been at their most dangerous.

Defeats to Benetton Rugby and Connacht were by two and one points respectively, showing the Italian side could still mix it with Final Series contenders when they get it right.

Key Strengths

Fly-half Carlo Canna gives the side a base to work from in attack, providing some invention from No.10.

The Italian international shone when Zebre were at their best, scoring 42 points across their three wins in 2018/19.

When the attack has been strong it has also been due to their effective offloading game, with Mattia Bellini, Giovanni Licata and Apisai Tauyavuca all able to keep moves flowing with deft hands.

The aforementioned home form is, of course, something Zebre will want to fall back on as they look to make Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi a true fortress next season.

Areas to improve

Zebre were this season’s lowest scorers in terms of tries (35) and points (260) so more cutting edge will be sought next season.

Often the Italian side can be too easily blunted, particularly with a physically imposing defensive display.

More grit and nous to help them pick up points on their travels could also help the Italian side bolt up the table next term.

Star moment

A Canna-inspired Zebre showed off their stuff as they grabbed a 34-16 win over Edinburgh.

The fly-half registered 19 points on the night, including him grabbing a wayward pass to dash over and touch down in the second half.

Edinburgh had led 10-0 and 16-10 but were left flattened by the most potent Zebre performance of the season.

Second-half tries from Dave Sisi, Gabriele di Giulio, Canna and Tommaso Castello left the fans delighted in Parma.

Breakout player

Hooker Massimo Ceciliani has put his hand up with tidy work around the field, in the tackle and carrying at close quarters, as well as being solid at the set piece.

The 22-year-old has got a decent amount of game time this term and will be looking to kick on and register more starts in 2019/20, while still being impactful from the bench.

He may have to accept a bit more of the latter initially with Italy hooker Luca Bigi arriving for next season.

Key man

Full-back Edoardo Padovani has been ever-reliable as an attacking threat in the Zebre back three.

His linebreaks and metres made defy him scoring just one try in the Guinness PRO14 this term.

With 815 metres made and 16 clean breaks, it shows the 26-year-old has an eye for a gap and the pace to exploit them.

Who’s in?

Zebre have been around the world as they look to improve their squad for the new Guinness PRO14 season – but their most important acquisition comes from their Italian rivals Benetton.

Hooker Luca Bigi, with 19 international caps, will provide some ballast and know-how to the front row next season.

Bradley has reached out to two veteran operators to contest for spots in the second row – as Ian Nagle and Mick Kearney both join from Leinster.

While players from the English Premiership will also be heading to Parma, with Harlequins’ Charlie Walker and Sale Sharks’ Romanian prop Alexandru Tarus hoping to make waves.

Australian Junior Laloifi, able to play anywhere in the back three, adds some more international flavour to the dressing room.

Who’s out?

The biggest loss looks to be young full-back Matteo Minozzi.

After two successful seasons with Zebre, during which he has won 10 Italy caps, the 22-year-old will move to England and join Wasps for 2019/20.

Argentinian centre Nicolas de Battista will go to the English second tier with Cornish Pirates.

Meanwhile, more than half a dozen players have been released including Australian Cruze Ah-Nau, Argentinian Marco Ciccioli and Tongan Matu Tevi.

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