While Aironi Rugby will be making their first appearance at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday night, there will be one familiar face for Ospreys fans in the shape of Rowland Phillips.
The former Wales defence coach spent a season as part of the Ospreys coaching set-up during the 2005/06 campaign, and he returns to the Liberty Stadium at the weekend with his new club who are enjoying their first ever season in existence after the merger of several clubs from the Lombardy and Emila Romagna regions of Italy in order to join the Magners League this autumn.
Eight clubs have combined, including some of Italian rugby’s biggest names such as Viadana, Gran Parma and Overmach Rugby Parma, and Phillips can see a comparison with the Ospreys and his new club.
He said: “There are a lot of similar circumstances at Aironi which we had at Ospreys: new team, a lot of new players and a lot of problems that we also had initially at the Ospreys. You must give an identity to the team, the players and the coaching staff that had to work as a group with a common goal. We are going through it now, but we can appreciate everyone’s hard work.
“Ospreys are a talented squad with a huge amount of players, and a lot of international experience. As a result they will be favourites to win the Magners League. Going to the Ospreys as a back to back away game after Scarlets is going to test our mental strength and our attitude.”
Aironi have already named their team for Saturday night’s game, and after a busy first three weeks of the season the coaching staff have decided to rest some players while Danwel Demas switches from the wing to fullback, and Gareth Krause takes the place of Nick Williams at No. 8.
In the backs, Giulio Toniolatti starts on the wing, while other wing Giulio Rubini and centres Gabriel Pizarro and Gilberto Pavan all retain their places. There is an all Italian half back pairing with Riccardo Bocchino and Michael Wilson playing together for the first time. ?With Krause at No. 8, the back row will be completed by Andrea Benatti and Josh Sole, who plays for the first time after injury.
Former Italy captain Marco Bortolami appears for the first time this season in the starting squad in the second row alongside Aironi captain Quintin Geldenhuys. The other two changes are in the front row with Luca Redolfini playing at tighthead prop and Luigi Ferraro at hooker. Salvatore Perugini completes the front row at loosehead.
Prop Ulises Gamboa, signed last week, finds a place in the bench with Ongaro, Alberto De Marchi, Furno, Cattina, Canavosio, Laharrague and Benettin.
15 Danwel Demas; 14 Giulio Toniolatti, 13 Gilberto Pavan, 12 Gabriel Pizarro, 11 Giulio Rubini; 10 Riccardo Bocchino, 9 Michael Wilson; 1 Salvatore Perugini, 2 Luigi Ferraro, 3 Luca Redolfini; 4 Marco Bortolami, 5 Quintin Geldenhuys (cap); 6 Andrea Benatti, 7 Josh Sole, 8 Gareth Krause.
Bench: 16 Leonardo Ulises Gamboa, 17 Fabio Ongaro, 18 Alberto De Marchi, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Nicola Cattina, 21 Pablo Canavosio, 22 Julien Laharrague, 23 Alberto Benettin