Danny Wilson has warned Cardiff Blues of the challenges facing them on Saturday, as they prepare to welcome Zebre to Cardiff Arms Park. (KO 7.35pm)
The Parma-based outfit have been impressive in the opening stages of the Guinness PRO14 campaign, showing a willingness to attack and play attractive rugby, racking up 20 tries in the process.
Former Connacht, Edinburgh and Ireland head coach, Michael Bradley, took the reins at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi over the summer, and is the latest Irishman involved in Italian rugby, with Conor O’Shea leading the main national side.
Zebre have picked up wins over Southern Kings and Ulster so far this season, while losing out by a single point to both Edinburgh and Cheetahs.
Wilson has been impressed with Zebre’s style of rugby this season, and believes his side will have to replicate their recent good form in order to stand a chance of claiming victory on Saturday.
“I’ve been really impressed with the changes. From analysing the team, they’re bordering on being unrecognisable from what we’ve seen in the past, “ said Wilson.
“They’re playing a very different brand of rugby and have completely changed their approach.
“They’ve got some good personnel and athletes in there now and it’s going to be a new challenge for us.
“Will they have their internationals available? The feeling at the moment is that they will, and we won’t have ours.
“We’re keen to get back to winning ways, at home. We need to show what we showed out in Toulouse, against Lyon and in the second half against Dragons.
“If we can reproduce the form we’ve shown in recent weeks, I think we’ll hopefully pick up the win, but we know it’s going to be a challenge with the way Zebre are going at the moment.
“They’re starting to produce some younger Italian players, and the quality in their play now, there’s some good stuff in the way they’re playing. They’re not reliant on set-piece or a physical game - they’re playing attractive rugby.”
Before last weekend’s derby defeat to Scarlets, Cardiff Blues had picked up four wins in five games, including back-to-back bonus point wins at Cardiff Arms Park.
Wilson admits that the Blues weren’t at their best at Parc y Scarlets, but he’s been impressed with his side’s hunger to improve from week-to-week.
Wilson said: “I don’t think it was one of our better performances. Credit to the Scarlets, they showed the quality and the organisation they have at the moment. They’re a quality outfit.
“Playing the champions away from home, especially as a second away game on the bounce, was always going to be a challenge.
“The younger guys we played in that fixture, it’s great for them to have that experience but it was a tough fixture for them.
“I was pleased we got back to a one-point game with twenty minutes remaining and being away from home, with character shown and effort shown to get back in the game, but unfortunately we fell short at the end.
“Up to the weekend, we had won four out of five games, which is now four out of six, and we’ve played top of the table French opposition and won home and away, picking up a bonus point.
“We’ve also picked up a bonus point against the Dragons and beaten Connacht away from home, which is a first from my time here, so there are really positives to reflect on.
“I’m fully aware that this is a very tough championship now, and we need wins to climb the table. It’s a very tight table and one or two wins is going to change the look of it very quickly.”
Guinness PRO14 action returns to Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday, as Cardiff Blues host Zebre. Make sure you grab your tickets by clicking HERE! We encourage supporters to use the 'Print at Home' option in order to avoid matchday queues, and purchasing beforehand will avoid a £4 surcharge.