Treviso say the pressure is on Biarritz

Italian flag bearers Benetton Treviso gear up for their back-to-back Pool 5 contests against Biarritz Olympique with head coach Franco Smith wary of the possible impacts from Imanol Harinordoquy and Dimitri Yachvili – but confident Antonio Pavanello’s side are making solid progress in Europe.

First up for Treviso is a trip to Stade Aguilera on Saturday with Smith adamant they remain the underdogs and all the pressure is on the 2006 and 2010 Heineken Cup finalists.

Treviso gave the Ospreys a real scare in Round 2 before the Welsh region clinched a last-gasp 26-26 draw and Smith accepts that Biarritz will be forewarned of the threat they could pose.

“I have got enormous respect for the French style and Biarritz will be very tough opponents in these back-to-back matches and I am sure they will have taken note of what we produced against the Ospreys and will be ready for us,” said Smith, now in his fifth season in charge at the Italian club.

“Naturally we want to win every game we play but I feel that for Biarritz it is vitally important they do that at home on Saturday and that means the pressure is on them.

“However, they have got a great pack and are well guided by Yachvili, who plays such a huge part in how they go about any match, while in players like Iain Balshaw, who is such a good finisher, and Taku Ngwenya they have some very dangerous backs with the ball in hand.

“Ngwenya is lightening fast and, as well as his strengths as a finisher and try scorer, he is also a great chaser of their kicking game.

“And at the heart of their team is Harinordoquy, he is such an immense figure as their leader and in charge of their line-out.”

“As far as Treviso go, our objectives for this campaign were to be competitive and gain as much respect as we can – and that continues to be on on-going process.

“This is the first time I have felt we really were well prepared for the Heineken Cup and I can clearly see the players are not intimated by either the tournament itself or the opposition.

“Last year we still felt we had to prove ourselves but now we are much more competitive and able to match opponents physically – the main difference is in technical skills and our execution but overall we are a much more confident side than ever before.”

The draw with the Ospreys – in which Treviso outscored the Welsh team 3-2 on tries – ended a 12-match losing run for Smith’s team, their last success being a 9-8 victory over Perpignan at the start of the 2009/ 2010 Pool stages.

“We are a much better side than last season, a more competitive and well balanced team and, whereas we use to rely pretty heavily on pure enthusiasm, now we have other strengths to bring to our game,” said Smith.

“We were literally 30 seconds away from four points against the Ospreys, and making the point of our competitive nature, so obviously it as very, very disappointing to let what really was a great chance slip away.

“What pleased me most was that we kept playing to our strengths, kept the ball well and scored some lovely tries – it was a big step up from the previous week.

“That said, we are still on a learning curve at this level, of making sure we keep the belief in what we are trying to do until the last second of every match while also working hard on improving.

“What I have been most disappointed with this season are the games we have managed to lose, we need to be more clinical and better execute the chances we create.”

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