Challenge Cup, there Zebre-Biarritz 49 days after the last match

Challenge Cup, there Zebre-Biarritz 49 days after the last match

The last official match of the series dates back to October 23 against Edinburgh. Since then, the national teams’ break, the incredible trip to South Africa and the quarantine have forced Bisini’s side into the penalty area.

Finally zebras. On Saturday at 2pm, the Federal franchise opened its Challenge Cup adventure by hosting France’s Biarritz in Parma. So far there will be nothing strange. However, the team’s last month and a half has been something out of the ordinary. And the last official match dates back to October 23, the defeat at home 10-27 against Edinburgh on the fifth day of the United Rugby Championship, which witnessed the failure of Besini and his colleagues this season.


In these 49 days, zebras have seen every single one of them, with Covid in all its metamorphoses putting a hand in. First, a break due to the national team’s commitments to the test matches in November, which Maxime Mbanda had to give up due to positivity towards the virus. Meanwhile, the small group continued to operate in Parma on orders of staff led by Michael Bradley, and also welcomed two New Zealanders, Timothy O’Malley and William Mitchell, to prepare for the double trip to South Africa where they were supposed to face the Stormers for the first time in Cape Town on the 27th november and then the sharks in durban last saturday, december 4th. A few days after arriving in South Africa, the news of the explosion of an upcoming Omicron variant from the Rainbow Nation raised the alarm. Urc canceled all scheduled matches (in addition to the Zebras, in South Africa there were also Irishmen from Munster, Welsh Scarlets and Cardiff Blues) and the team had to close in a hotel in Cape Town pending an understanding of how and when to organize a return to Italy. Between a ban on flights to Europe, an endless series of tampons (always negative, thankfully), a few words of comfort and a few facts from Farnesina, it was President Michelle Dalay’s social videos of the zebra situation, on Monday, November 29 I finally got back to Italy after a shared charter flight with Cardiff Blues organized by Urc to Dublin. From here, for the Italian franchise, a new flight to Bologna and the bus to Parma. Everyone at home? Not a chance.

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forty-nine days

Of course, things got worse in Monster and even more so in Scarletts, as I was forced to stay longer in South Africa due to some positivity recorded in the squad. Even the Welshman had to abandon the Champions Cup match against the Bristol Bears at the start of the week due to the lack of available athletes, and thus suffered a 28-0 defeat. Returning to the vicissitudes of the zebras, once in Parma, all 42 people who left for South Africa (players, coaches, medical and health staff, managers) had to stay in seclusion at the Hotel Villa Ducale, located right at the entrance to the sports center Moletolo where the rugby castle is located with Lanfranchi Stadium and the entire franchise training complex. Only after 4 more days at the hotel (with social media talking about the team organizing a surprise remote party for Leon Mbanda’s 1st birthday, as New Zealanders grapple for the first time with buffalo mozzarella and transforming bedrooms into mini gyms), players received a good ASL in Parma to return to the field for training. Again, however, with limitations. In fact, the 30 athletes who left for South Africa had to train separately from those (wounded, compatriots at rest) who did not participate in the first leg. The hotel camp bubble lasted another 3 days, after which – with particle smears always negative – everyone was able to go home. Since the beginning of the week, everything seemed to be finally back to normal, except for two heavy snowfalls that fell on Parma on Wednesday and Friday. The sheets were laid out on Lanfranchi’s lawn in time, but shoveling and preparing the field required good work. But Zebri Biarritz will play. And after 49 days, that’s really good news.

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