7:02am Wednesday 2nd October 2013
FEW are better placed to judge the threat posed by Zebre than Newport Gwent Dragons fly-half Kris Burton.
The Italians were the RaboDirect Pro12 whipping boys last season, propping up the table after losing all 22 games.
They pushed a lot of teams hard – including the Dragons, who escaped from Parma with a nervy 14-13 success – but were unable to get over the line.
That all changed last month when they stunned Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park, followed by a losing bonus point against leaders Glasgow.
Zebre are still struggling in 10th but have proved they are no pushovers.
That is no surprise for 33-year-old Burton, a summer recruit from Treviso who is relishing the chance to go up against a number of his former Italy teammates at Rodney Parade.
"Zebre have always had a good team, they just needed to click," said Brisbane-born Burton, who qualified for Italy through his mother.
"They are starting to get a bit more cohesion with (former New Zealand) scrum-half Brendon Leonard making a big difference and providing more aggression at the base.
"I know how tough it will be because they have some quality players in that side that I have played with and against.
"We have to be on our guard but if we get our game right then we should be able to cope with whatever they throw at us and produce another strong home performance."
Burton, who retired from international rugby this summer, made his first start of the season in the 23-9 loss to Munster in Cork last Saturday.
He kicked beautifully in windy conditions but it was a tough evening behind an under-pressure Dragons pack.
Burton is likely to drop back to the bench against Zebre but will look to play his part in securing the points off the bench.
"Jason Tovey's been playing well and it was good to get a shot at Munster," he said. "I wasn't completely happy with my game and it wasn't the result or the performance we wanted.
"We defended a lot and didn't have much go-forward ball, there's a lot to work on but I'm sure we can put it right and get the win against Zebre.
"Hopefully I'll get another chance on Friday, if not starting then coming off the bench."
Dragons squad: D Evans, M Pewtner, W Harries, R Wardle, T Prydie, H Amos, A Hughes, J Dixon, K Burton, J Tovey, L Robling, W Evans, R Rees, J Evans, O Evans, P Price, A Coundley, N Williams, H Gustafson, S Parry, D Way, N Buck, F Chaparro, M Screech, A Jones, R Sidoli, A Coombs, J Groves, N Talei, L Evans, N Cudd, T Faletau, I Jones.
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