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The other side: Treviso about to find life even tougher

By Michael Sadlier

When all is said and done, it doesn't really sit too comfortably that the only side Treviso really have to beat in the PRO12 is Zebre.

Maybe that does seem rather condescending as any team will always want to maximise their season by running up as many victories as possible but the reality of the new restructured European qualification system via the PRO12 has ensured that one Italian side will make the Champions Cup on the sole proviso that they finish above their national rivals in the league.

In one fell swoop, then, the essence of the season, for both Treviso and Zebre, boils down to how the local derbies fare if, of course, you are working on the assumption that Champions Cup is something worth being in for an Italian side even more likely to be humiliatingly put through the wringer in the new streamlined Europe than was the case before.

At the moment, it is Treviso who are in pole position having seen off Zebre in their festive derbies to take 11th place and consign their local rivals to bottom spot, though there are only two points between them.

Even though they have managed to win their last two games, though, it has all been played out to rather sombre backbeat as these clashes represent Treviso's only successes of the season.

Theirs is a story of hope, growth and, now, rather steep decline with those heady days when they managed a seventh place finish in the league back in 2012-13, in just their third season playing at this level, now seeming as if they could surely never have happened.

The Champions Cup has been particularly unforgiving with the second of their back-to-back games with Northampton Saints jumping out at all who argue that Italian regional rugby is going backwards at a fairly swift rate of knots.

Treviso were quite simply obliterated in an 11-try romp which saw the Saints end the day winning by a mere 67-0.

And then another low point came six days after the Franklins Gardens slaughter when they were hammered out of the gate 48-0 at Edinburgh in what was a 10th straight PRO12 defeat which saw the Italians concede six tries and also lose replacement Romulo Acosta to a red card for a punch.

And, yes, it will hardly come as a surprise to find out that the Italians have managed two red cards which is more than anyone else with Ulster, Glasgow and the Scarlets their nearest challengers on one each while with 11 yellow cards already racked up they are third behind Zebre (14) and Edinburgh (12) when it comes to sin-binnings.

There are more stats to add to the grim reading as Treviso have also managed to concede more points than anyone in the league (346) and more tries (43).

As for tomorrow, they have made seven changes to the side which saw off Zebre with flanker Alessandro Zanni and scrum-half Edoardo Gori both notably returning to the starting side to add experience.

The wins over Zebre may indeed have boosted their belief as did the memory of their 24-24 draw with Leinster last November and some close calls with Ulster over the last few seasons.

Even so, Treviso go into this one more in hope than expectation.

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