'Hungry dogs ' - Gloucester's Stephen Varney provides insight into Benetton's mindset ahead of semi-final clash

Benetton, like the Italian national team, are tired of being written off by the wider rugby world and looking to prove a point, says Gloucester's Azzuri international scrum-half Stephen Varney.

Varney, 22, comes into the game off the back of his best Six Nations campaign to date as part of the Italian national team alongside a host of Benetton's stars like player of the tournament Tommaso Menconcello, captain Michele Lamaro and former Hartpury product Sebastian Negri. Add to the mix the likes of Fijian winger Onisi Ratave - who is the top try scorer in this season's Challenge Cup, former Wasps favourites Malakai Fekitoa, Paolo Odogwu and Jacob Umaga and the Italian side have put together a formidable squad.

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The days of the Benetton being whipping boys are certainly long behind them, sitting eighth in the 16-team United Rugby Championship and heading into their second semi-final in the Challenge Cup in as many years when they head to Kingsholm on Saturday.

Speaking to RugbyPass, Varney said: “Benetton are hungry dogs with a chip on their shoulder because of what the media say about them with a good physical pack and some exciting backs to play off. They are a dangerous threat and one we can hopefully nullify this weekend and put a performance in that we can be proud of.

“I keep in touch with Seb Negri and he is a good friend of mine and I sent him a quick message – nothing about the game – but I don’t think I am mates with any of them this week! Seb is massive and hopefully our forwards will deal with him.

“The set piece will be massive and Benetton kick the most in the URC and we are expecting a lot of kicking from them and this is knock-out rugby and it’s about who makes the first mistake. We haven’t had the best run in the league but in the knockout games we have nailed them and I don’t know what it is – we click when we know that if we lose then we won’t be playing in the competition again.

“Hopefully, we can have the same mindset and put in a performance to get the win and reach the final.”