The heroic Cinderella is trying to change her dress, but it won’t be easy to find the right way
The United Rugby Championship will begin in the late afternoon of Friday 16th September. The 2022/2023 season of Zebre will officially start the next day, Saturday, when it hosts the Parma Leinster Series in Lanfranchi.
After a disastrous 2021/2022 season, with just one victory in 18 games and a sense of general disarray, between alternating coaches and looming issues off the field, Fabio Rosselli’s team is trying to change its face: it does so by changing the colors, the code, the jerseys and the players.
Is it enough not to be condemned to another season of tears and blood?
Read also: Benetton Rugby: 2022/2023 season preview
The team headed by Fabio Rosselli can count on 57 players, also counting on members of the newly created academy. A tall team, more numerous than last year, but where a lot has changed: More than 20 players welcomed the Zebras at the end of last season, as many have arrived.
The franchise decided to cut several senators out of the locker room: Giulio Bisini, Carlo Cana, Maxime Mbanda, Oliviero Fabiani, Andrea Lovotti, Guglielmo Balazani and Marcello Violi, just to mention those who remained playing in Italy, while others found offers from abroad. Like Renato Giammarioli, Eduardo Bello and Danilo Fischetti.
A real revolution. Many of the Italian newcomers, around the age of 23 under the age of 23, are balanced by the entry of a certain number of foreign players who are difficult to assess. Kobus van Wyk looked the most interesting signing, but a long injury had already forced him into the pits. Jacques de Toit is a player with proven experience and Gonzalo Garcia is a beautiful talent. Others were poached in an attempt to dig up some rough gems in the meanders of the lower classes of Europe and South Africa, including waste from Benetton, according to the principle of economy that seems to guide zebras.
The result is a group with a lot more unknowns, on paper less than the group of all competitors. The only pre-season friendly against the Ealing Trailfinders was certainly not refuted, but it exacerbated those doubts.
On the heels of the decent results of last season’s final, which were obtained by several confirmed players in the team, Zebras will try to build something effective, but the impression is that the work that needs to be done to be able to compete is still a lot.
However, in this uncharted forest, there are some intriguing human subjects awaiting an instant qualitative leap: Matteo Nocera is the oldest set of four right-handed towers, one more promising than the other (completed by Ion Neculai, Muhammad Hasa and Riccardo Genovese), while In the back section, it is time to understand if Matteo Moscardi can deliver on the promises outlined in the Under-20 level and whether Simone Gesi can rise to a higher level and climb the Italian rugby hierarchy in his position.
Fabio Rosselli remains the head coach of the Parma franchise. Aldo Berchall has been appointed alongside him as the defensive coach, while Emiliano Bergamci continues as the forward coach.
New is the entry of David Williams’ crew, who will be training their backs. South African resumes range from Cheetahs in the time of Pro14, to Southern Kings and Sharks in the Super Rugby era. He spent a few months as a backseat coach at Bath last year, but was sacked by the club before the end of the season.
Much of the Zebras’ strength depends on the skills of Fabio Roselli, a true researcher in the game, and on his relationship with most of the team, with whom he worked through the years as head coach for Italy Under-20, and achieved results. Never seen before.
The Zebras are racing to improve on last year’s season, develop the talent on the team and deliver some results that can make fans smile. If they do not finish last, it will be frankly a surprise, and therefore the terms of assessment in June 2023 must necessarily be related to expectations and the starting level.
Gialloblu is a team that first needs to gain confidence, but the draw on the calendar did not like it. Leinster, Sharks, Munster and Stormers present really tough poker challenges, even if 3 of the first 4 matches are played in Lanfranchi. One surprise out of the four, perhaps thanks to a pre-season slumber, that would give some of the excitement and shock needed to try to compete.
Toulon and Bristol are very expensive draws for the Zebras in the Challenge Cup.
Qualifying for the knockout stage is very complicated and will involve more than one surprising result.
The other side of the coin is represented by the possibility of exposing the team, especially younger players, to a different game of rugby, in a special environment like that of the European Cups: a kind of development accelerator for all players, for individual and team level.
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