PRO12 season preview: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Treviso and Zebre
By Louise Warr
Last Updated: 30/08/16 3:55pm
As the new PRO12 season gets underway, we take a look at the Scottish and Italian hopes for the title including their signings, departures and what's hot...
Last season: 9th
Best finish: 2nd (2008/2009)
What's hot: Their move away from Murrayfield. The planned move to Myreside which is due to happen in the second half of the season could have a positive impact on an Edinburgh side that slumped to their lowest league position in three years. A change of scenery and the possibility of playing in front of a stadium that is more than half full could be a refreshing change for the squad as the season heads into the closing stages.
What's not: Alan Solomons may have steadied the ship since his arrival in the capital but Edinburgh still find themselves at the lower end of the PRO12 table. Given their wealth of talent - including British and Irish Lions tourist Ross Ford, Scotland international Willem Nel and the high-profile acquisition of Duncan Weir - Edinburgh should be aiming for a Champions Cup place but given the signings from those around them it could well end up being another stale season.
What's changed: Edinburgh have addressed their fly-half problems of recent seasons with the signing of Scotland international Weir, who has switched from Glasgow to team up with Jason Tovey, whose loan move from the Dragons last season has been made permanent. The fly-half pair will be joined by Tongan international Viliami Fihaki while Junior Rasolea will replace Matt Scott who makes the move to Gloucester.
Ins: Nick Beavon (Melrose), Glenn Bryce (Glasgow), Kevin Bryce (Glasgow), Lewis Carmichael (Melrose), Viliami Fihaki (Sale), Viliame Mata (Fiji Sevens), Alex Northam (North Harbour Rays), Junior Rasolea (Western Force), Rory Scholes (Ulster), Sasa Tofilau (Kirkcaldy), Jason Tovey (Dragons), Duncan Weir (Glasgow).
Outs: John Andress (Munster), Sam Beard (Dragons), Mike Coman (London Irish), Jack Cuthbert (Jersey Reds), Nick McLennan (Scotland Sevens), Matt Scott (Gloucester), Grant Shiells (London Scottish), Andries Strauss (retired), Jade Te Rure (Manawatu), Greig Tonks (London Irish), Alex Toolis (Melbourne Rebels).
Guinness PRO12 season preview: Cardiff, Newport, Ospreys and Scarlets
With the start of the PRO12 season imminent, we look at the talking points from the four Welsh teams
Last season: 3rd (losing semi-finalists)
Best finish: 1st and champions in 2014/2015
What's hot: Glasgow's choice of co-captains. Jonny Gray and Henry Pyrgos will share the role of captaining the Warriors for the upcoming campaign. They are both men at the heart of the club with a wealth of experience and their complimenting strengths could be the motivation Glasgow need to push on and make their mark in the competition.
What's not: The departure of the dynamic duo of Leone Nakarawa and Taqele Naiyaravoro. The Warriors just couldn't compete with the financial offer from Racing 92 as the French side tempted away their star forward while Naiyaravoro left to further his international ambitions back in Australia. Gregor Townsend is adamant his team are a stronger proposition than last year but with the financial clout of those outside of the league, could a successful season lead to further notable exits?
What's changed: The playing surface. After a series of issues with the pitch at Scotstoun, which included the cancellation of four fixtures last season, Glasgow have installed an artificial surface installed in the off-season and the fast-nature of the turf, also used by Cardiff, Newcastle and Saracens, will lend itself to Glasgow's high-tempo style.
Ins: Rory Clegg (Oyonnax), Jarrod Firth (Counties Manukau), Corey Flynn (Toulouse), Nemia Kenatale (Farul Constanța), Leonardo Sarto (Zebre), Hagen Schulte (Canterbury), Tjiuee Uanivi (Sharks),
Outs: Will Bordill (Ayr), Glenn Bryce (Edinburgh), Kevin Bryce (Edinburgh), Mike Blair (retired), Michael Cusack (Yorkshire Carnegie), James Eddie (retired), Duncan Weir (Edinburgh), Robbie Fergusson (London Scottish), Jason Hill (Bedford Blues), Gregor Hunter (Gala), Tyrone Holmes (released), Shalva Mamukashvili (released), Taqele Naiyaravoro (NSW Waratahs), Leone Nakarawa (Racing 92), Fergus Scott (Currie), Javan Sebastian (released), Jerry Yanuyanutawa (released).
Last season: 12th
Best finish: 7th (2012/2013)
What's hot: Perhaps their most significant recruit: Kiwi fly-half Marty Banks, who joins from the Highlanders and will provide the side with an excellent kicking option forcing the Italians to play in the right areas of the field.
What's not: It was a season to forget for Treviso, winning just three of their 22 PRO12 matches to finish bottom of the table and lose out on Champions Cup qualification to their fellow countrymen Zebre. Without top-tier European rugby they could slip further behind their rivals and with many calling for the Italian sides to be scrapped from the competition they could face a fight for their survival too.
What's changed: In order to rectify their problems from last year Treviso have secured the signatures of experienced internationals to steady the ship. Half-backs Tito Tebaldi and Tommaso Allan and centre Tommaso Benvenuti all join the club while Fijian flyer Michael Tagicakibau makes the switch from the Scarlets.
Ins: Tommaso Allan (Perpignan), Marty Banks (Highlanders), Tommaso Benvenuti (Bristol), Giorgio Bronzini (Rovigo), Andrea Buondonno (Mogliano), Filippo Gerosa (Viadana), Ian McKinley (Viadana), David Odiete (Mogliano), Tiziano Pasquali (Leicester), Nicola Quaglio (Rovigo), Luca Sperandio (Mogliano), Michael Tagicakibau (Scarlets), Tito Tebaldi (Harlequins), Federico Zani (Mogliano), Guglielmo Zanini (Rovigo).
Outs: James Ambrosini (Amatori), Enrico Bacchin (Padova), Sam Christie (Waikato), Andrea De Marchi (Rovigo), Rupert Harden (released), Alberto Lucchese (Padova), Salesi Manu (Honda Heat), Matteo Muccignat (Rovigo), Duncan Naude (Limoges), Ludovico Nitoglia (retired), Tom Palmer (released), Simone Ragusi (Padova), Chris Smylie (North Harbour).
Last season: 11th
Best finish: 11th (2015/2016)
What's hot: Since pipping their fellow countrymen Treviso to Champions Cup qualification, Zebre have made some smart signings including Josh Furno and Carlo Festuccia among a host of players with Super Rugby experience.
What's not: Despite achieving their highest-ever position last season Zebre are yet to break out of the bottom two in the PRO12. With many using the Italian's sides' fortunes in the competition as a reason for returning to its Celtic roots they need to use their ever-increasing knowledge of their opponents to launch an assault up the table.
What's changed: Zebre have undertaken a major squad-shake up ahead of the new season, parting company with 17 players including the experienced duo of Marco Bortolami and Mirco Bergamasco. However, they have bought wisely with a host of players from outside the PRO12 which could prove vital in changing their fortunes.
Ins: Kurt Baker (New Zealand Sevens), Mattia Bellini (Padova), Tommaso Castello (Calvisano), Gabriele Di Giulio (Calvisano), Carlo Engelbrecht (Blue Bulls), Carlo Festuccia (Wasps), Joshua Furno (Newcastle), Lloyd Greeff (Golden Lions), Bart le Roux (Leopards), Maxime Mbandà (Calvisano), Derick Minnie (Golden Lions), Giovanbattista Venditti (Newcastle).
Outs: Mirco Bergamasco (Sacramento Express), Ulrich Beyers (released), Marco Bortolami (retired), Luke Burgess (retired), Emiliano Caffini (Fiamme Oro), Emiliano Coria (Nevers), Jean Cook (Kintetsu Liners), Filippo Cristiano (Fiamme Oro), Paul Derbyshire (Amatori), Filippo Ferrarini (Ohio Aviators), Gonzalo Garcia (Cahors), Kelly Haimona (Bay of Plenty), Mils Muliaina (San Diego Breakers), Bruno Mercanti (released), Leonardo Sarto (Glasgow), Giulio Toniolatti (Lazio), Michele Visentin (Mogliano).