Dec 06, 2013
Zebre v Saracens - Match preview
Saracens face Italian outfit Zebre Rugby for the first time in the clubs history this Saturday in the Heineken Cup.
The Italian side host Saracens in Parma this Saturday (kick-off 13h35 GMT), here Henry Fraser previews the game;
- RaboDirect form guide, won 1, lost 7, drawn 1.
This is only the second season of Pro12 and Heineken Cup rugby for Zebre and already it's easy to see huge improvement. It has come at a time when Italian rugby is going from strength to strength and more willing to play freer rugby. They are giving huge confidence to their players.
In their entire thirty-nine man squad they only have seven non-Italian players. No doubt this plays a huge part in Italy's recent successes.
Even though they currently sit eleventh in the Pro12 it's not through a lack of endeavour. They are the tenth highest points scorers in the league and the sixth best in the try scoring stats. Half their tries come in the final quarter of the game, so tiring them out early is very important. Many of their tries have come from out wide by the wingers.
On their day they can both cause problems and stretch Sarries' defence. Closing the ball down early is key as they can both finish very well. If you saw Dion Berryman's finish against Toulouse you know what I mean. It was one of best ever seen in the Heineken Cup.
Zebre have scored fifteen tries so far but it's their defence that is unfortunately that is letting them down. They have conceded the most points and the second most tries, however only a third have come at home. They don't score many at home either so it seems they shut down well and keep everything close and quiet to defend their home. The Sarries' attack will have to be firing to score tries against the Zebre defence.
Pressure is key for Sarries as the Zebre discipline has caused them to concede seven yellow cards already this season. The reverse is also true as Luciano Orquera is kicking at 85% this season and will keep the pressure building.
One thing you should not do these days is underestimate Italian teams, club or country. They are extremely resilient and play with a lot of pride at home.
Players to watch
Dion Berryman - "He might not be the most consistent player, but at his best is a deadly finisher. Berryman is not the most well known name to come from New Zealand but can pack a real punch and cause problems for the best of the defenders".
Brendon Leonard - "A wonderful bit of business for Zebre. He offers huge experience in a key position. Even though he has not played European rugby before his experience will help those around him. His control of the game can give them great field position and give their deadly wingers a chance show why they score so many tries".