Benetton Rugby are the next EPCR Challenge Cup team to come under the microscope today for their forthcoming campaign, when they will be looking to qualify for the semi-finals for the first time.
Challenge Cup record
The Italian team broke new ground last season, when they made the knockout stage of the competition for the first time. In their four previous Challenge Cup campaigns they had exited after the pool matches.
Thanks to a 44-20 victory at Stade Français Paris in Round 1, they reached the Round of 16, where they overcame Agen 29-16 at home. However, their third successive French opponents, Montpellier Hérault Rugby, proved a step too far, as Benetton succumbed 31-25 at the GGL Stadium to the eventual winners.
Marco Bortolami was promoted to the top coaching role at Benetton earlier this year, after serving five years as assistant coach. The 41-year-old former lock retired as a player in 2016, after winning 112 caps for Italy and making 63 European appearances for Petrarca, Narbonne, Gloucester Rugby, Aironi Rugby and Zebre.
Benetton provide a host of experienced players to the Italy squad, including prop Simone Ferrari, back-row forwards Sebastian Negri and Braam Steyn, centres Tommaso Benvenuti and Luca Morisi, and full-back Edoardo Padovani.
After a bye in Round 1, Benetton open their Challenge Cup campaign with a trip to Gloucester Rugby on December 17. The Italian outfit then entertain Dragons on January 15, before closing their pool schedule with a visit to Lyon on January 21 and a home game against USAP in April.