With two points from a possible fifteen in the first three rounds of the new campaign, it’s safe to say that Benetton’s start has been far from stellar.
Beaten by only five points in their opening home bout against reigning champions Leinster, the green-and-white men were then heavily beaten at the Sportsground by high-flying Connacht before fighting for a vital losing bonus-point against Ospreys.
There’s no doubt that the Italians are missing many of their top players to the World Cup and they will be able to welcome back the team that threatened Europe last season, getting very close to a huge scalp at Thomond Park before going down 15-13 to Munster.
But what seems to have emerged from the Benetton games we have seen so far in the first three weeks of the 2019/2020 Guinness PRO14 season is a sort of ‘lack of attention’.
The red card received by winger Ratuva Tavuyara at the beginning of the second half of the Leinster clash was followed by another for workhorse Marco Lazzaroni in the early stages against Ospreys in the Liberty Stadium encounter.
Those two sending-offs have subsequently forced Kieran Crowley’s side to play with a numerical disadvantage for 101 minutes out of the 240 played so far this season.
The lack of discipline is probably the only real source of concern Benetton staff has to face and fix quickly to return to their winning habits.
The fact is that with their historic qualification to the Final Series, the Lions not only have secured an astonishing milestone for the Italian rugby community, but they have also graduated to elite club status as one of the top Guinness PRO14 contenders.
That means that now, no-one will see them as just a sparring partner anymore. Benetton are a respected, admired and, mostly, feared opposition with the consequence that every team is expecting and harsh battle when they face them. And so will be well prepared.
That leads to the necessity that every player wearing the green and white shirt must be composed, disciplined and focused on details for the whole 80 minutes of play. Every second is key.
The unstoppable rise of competitiveness in the Guinness PRO14 requires players to keep their standard much above average. And in this environment, details make the difference.
Benetton wants to be part of that elite club for the future and everyone involved in the journey must act accordingly should they want to stay at the top of a game that will keep on getting better and better and that won’t stop to wait latecomers.
Work never stops at the Ghirada headquarters. Without the contribution of the international stars, Benetton must continue to keep on shaping the club’s medium and long term future.
Permit players, once again, are making their contribution to the cause as props Michele Mancini Parri (only 21 years old) and Damiano Borean (22) are enjoying their first regular stints on the big stage, the first having establish himself on the Azzurri ‘watchlist’ already.
Teenage colleague Filippo Alongi is now a certainty in the Benetton front-row rotation while lock Niccolò Cannone (21) and back rowers Lodovico Manni (21) and Giovanni Pettinelli (23) are getting even more used to the Guinness PRO14 standards requirements.
If you add the fact that playmaker-sensation Antonio Rizzi (21) is again in excellent form, that Italian international utility back Luca Sperandio (23) is back from injury and flanker Michele Lamaro (21) is working his way back to full fitness on the sidelines, it’s quite evident how Benetton are focused on keeping their hard-fought promotion to the European elite club a permanent status.
Cardiff City Stadium will play host to the 2020 Guinness PRO14 Final on June 20 as one of the most exciting days in the club rugby calendar comes to Wales!
General sale tickets are available from http://bit.ly/PRO14Cardiff2020 and prices start at just £13 for concessions and £26 for adults (subject to booking fees), that’s a 15% early bird discount. Family ticket (2 adults / 2 children) prices begin at £64 and fans are encouraged to buy early to get the best value tickets.