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United Colours of Rugby: Bath v Benetton
By P G Tips
October 11 2017


Clark: direct

Fans can expect a touch of colour when Benetton Treviso visit the Rec late on Saturday afternoon.  Bath’s ECC Pool 5 opponents have been owned and sponsored by Benetton since the start of the professional era in1997. Italian clubs have traditionally struggled in this competition, which has been dominated by sides from France, England and Ireland. They are often dismissed as only there to provide a touch of diversity and colour. It would be unwise though to take anything for granted against this proud club    

Treviso Rugby as they were originally called have dominated Italian domestic rugby since their foundation, winning 15 national titles and providing the core of the national side in many seasons. A glance at their past players list shows the impact the club has had on national rugby fortunes, nurturing such greats as Francescato, Bergamasco, Parisse, Ghiraldini, Troncon and Checchinato. Although success in European competition has eluded them, they have notched some notable wins over the years in the old Heineken tournament, taking the scalps of Bath, Leicester and Perpignan.

 

The current squad lie mid table in Conference B of the Pro 14, with 3 wins from 6 matches.  The wins have all been notable – at home to Southern Kings, with a bonus point and Ospreys, plus a rare win on the road, snatched at Edinburgh. Italy wing Angelo Esposito did the damage on that occasion, also scoring twice against the Kings – he will be the main danger man for Bath to police out wide. Their pack boasts international experience in all three rows and De Marchi, Ferrari, Zani, Barbieri and Zanni will all want to give a good account of themselves. Other names to look out for are wily halfbacks Tebaldi, Gori. McKinley and Allan and the 45 times capped Tommaso Benvenuti who could be a real threat at centre. With Kieran Crowley, Fabio Ongaro and Marco Bortolami making up their coaching team they are blessed with ample pedigree.

 

Bath for their part may have to cobble a team together due to a continuing run of injuries and the suspension of Freddie Burns. On the likely casualty list are Beno Obano, Jack Walker, Ben Tapuai and Rhys Priestland. The resultant shuffling should test not only squad depth but the ingenuity of Blackadder and his fellow coaches. Against Worcester Bath found some impressive continuity and fluidity in attack at times. Blackadder will hope that injury induced disruption to the midfield does not set that development back.  A new midfield axis of Lewis and Clark will probably need to keep it simple in their first pairing. Expect plenty of direct running from Clark to give the back row a target to work off.

 

Bath will want a strong start to their European campaign. They have avoided the “Pool of Death” (surely Pool 2, Clermont, Northampton, Ospreys and Saracens) and are not even in the “Pool of the Critically Ill” where Leicester must face Castres, Munster and Racing. There are no easy pools though in the competition and future fixtures against Scarlets and Toulon suggest that Benetton at home is the kindest the fixture list will get. Treviso is the centre of Italy’s Prosecco industry, but if Bath continue as they left off against Warriors, it should be they who provide the fizz and sparkle in the match.

 

 

Possible Bath Team:

 

Auterac, Dunn, Thomas, Stooke, Ewels (Capt.) Mercer, Underhill, Grant. Cook, Lewis, Brew, Clark, Joseph, Rokodoguni. Watson.

Replacements: Nixon, Charles, Perenise, Charteris, Louw. Fotuali’i, Allinson, Wilson