Biarritz out to kick-start season
December 9, 2011
Biarritz's Iain Balshaw tries to escape against the Ospreys © Getty Images
Biarritz face back-to-back fixtures against Benetton Treviso as they look to boost their bid for a place in the Heineken Cup quarter finals.
The French team have endured a woeful start to the domestic Top 14 season - they currently prop up the table after just two wins from their opening 12 fixtures - but are well set in Pool five following a victory over Saracens and defeat to the Ospreys.
Biarritz will be looking to secure back-to-back wins but nothing is assured. Last season they suffered a major upset in Italy as they lost to Aironi.
Benetton Treviso - Player to Watch: Brendan Williams will have to be at his best if he is to counter the pace and threat of Taku Ngwenya. However, if given the ball in space, Williams will aim to give Ngwenya some problems of his own.
Benetton Treviso - Team News: Luke McLean starts at fullback while Ludovico Nitoglia and Brendan Williams start on the wings. Tommaso Benvenuti and Alberto Sgarbi start in the centres with Kris Burton and Tobias Botes at half-back. Michele Rizzo, Enrico Ceccato and Lorenzo Cittadini start in the front-row with Antonio Pavanello and Cornelius Van Zyl in the locks. Robert Barbieri, Alessandro Zanni and Paul Derbyshire form the back-row.
Biarritz - Player to Watch: Iain Balshaw is in the form of his life for Biarritz and although out of the England frame, will look to shine in front of an expectant Italian crowd.
Biarritz - Team News: Fabien Barcella, Benoit August and Campbell Johnstone form the front-row with Jerome Thion and Pelu Taele behind them in the second-row. The aptly named Wenceslas Lauret, Talalelei Gray and Florian Faure are in the back-row. Yann Lesgourgues and Marcelo Bosch form the half-backs with Ilikena Bolakoro and Taku Ngwenya on the wings. Benoit Baby and Damien Traille are in the centres with Iain Balshaw at fullback.
Key Battle: Biarritz are void of their inspirational skipper Imanol Harinorodoquy so the Top 14 side's back-row will need to front up if they are to counter the threat of Treviso.
Trivia: If Biarritz lose, they will become the first club to lose to both Italian sides on the road in the Heineken Cup.
Stats: Biarritz reached the Heineken Cup final in 2006 and 2010
""I have got enormous respect for the French style and Biarritz will be very tough opponents in these back-to-back matches and I am sure they will have taken note of what we produced against the Ospreys and will be ready for us."
"I didn't want to talk about it before because the situation at BO is serious and is preoccupying my mind."
Prediction: Biarritz to defy their horrendous Top 14 form to secure an important, if tight, win over Treviso.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The controversial tackling technique will be in full swing in Dublin on Sunday, writes Conor O'Shea, and could be a decisive factor for Ireland
"This team deserves to be recognised as the greatest of all time." Huw Richards looks at Gareth Edwards' final match for Wales
The two leading contenders for the best modern open-side flanker go head to head in Paris on Saturday. John Taylor assesses the tale of the tape