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Treviso hoping to upset the odds

Treviso are determined to strike a blow for the underdog in this season's Heineken Cup.

On paper, the Italian champions look destined to prop up Pool Two given that they must tackle four-time European champions Toulouse, twice tournament winners Leicester and strongest Welsh challengers the Ospreys.

But their form this season has been impressive, having already beaten Friday night's Heineken opponents the Ospreys in league combat, in addition to last season's European semi-finalists Edinburgh. "We are maturing as a side - we are more experienced and street-wise," Treviso boss Franco Smith said.

"I believe that right now we are the best prepared we have ever been in my five years here for going into the Heineken Cup.

"Obviously, there is a lot of talk at the moment about Italian teams not meriting places in the Heineken Cup, and perhaps we have not always performed well enough.

"And while the RaboDirect PRO12 has made us more competitive, we know we must try and improve away from home and go to the Liberty Stadium on Friday night and be competitive.

"We have signed five former Aironi players and we have some good young players coming through, so we are really excited about the tournament. But Italian rugby in general needs to perform, be it in the Heineken Cup, RaboDirect or the Six Nations, and start building a winning mentality."

The Ospreys, eager to make a flying start before visiting Leicester on Sunday week, field an all-international pack under the captaincy of Wales lock Alun-Wyn Jones.

"Treviso first up is a difficult one," Ospreys backs coach Gruff Rees said. "We've seen for ourselves already, not just on the opening day of the season, but also last year in the Heineken, how good a team they are.

"It's crucial in Europe to get off to a good start, and crucial that you win your home games, so the importance of Friday night cannot be underestimated."


From Belfast Telegraph