ZEBRE are hoping a week in Newport can help them answer their critics when they take to the field at Rodney Parade on Friday, writes Chris Kirwan.

The men from Parma endured a nightmare start to the Guinness Pro12 when thrashed 59-5 by the Ospreys last Friday, shipping eight tries at the Liberty Stadium.

They have stayed in Wales at the Coldra Court Hotel, using the gym facilities at the Celtic Academy and training on Newport High School's pitch.

The hope is that the ability to knuckle down in preparation for Newport Gwent Dragons and also mix socially, including a round of golf at the Celtic Manor, will result in Zebre, who lost the corresponding fixture 13-0 last season, giving a much better account of themselves in round two.

"There are a lot of new faces this year after a big clean out so like any team a bit of time together makes you feel a bit more comfortable on the field," said Kiwi full-back Kurt Baker, a summer arrival from Taranaki.

"A week away when you are all together as a group is always good and hopefully that will help this weekend, because we didn't make the sort of start that we wanted.

"I've only been with the team a week but know that they are a proud group so for the score to finish the way it did was pretty disappointing.

"The good thing about this competition is that there are 21 more weeks to fix it. We've got to keep working hard and the game plan will come off. We've got a chance of redemption."

Zebre struggled on opening weekend but they signalled their intent with the signing of former New Zealand 7s captain Baker.

The 27-year-old was a surprise omission from the Kiwis' squad for the Olympics and the ex-Highlanders speedster is relishing a fresh challenge.

"I've been pretty lucky that I've been in some pretty successful sides in New Zealand," said Baker, who was treated to a welcome to Wales meal by compatriots and Dragons players Nick Crosswell (a former Manawatu teammate) and Sam Beard last weekend.

"Obviously this team has struggled in the past and I knew what I was getting myself into. I am excited by the challenge and this team will move forward.

"It was tough last week but we will get back on the horse. I know that these boys really enjoy playing at home but we want to put in a big performance at Newport."

There is little chance of the Dragons taking Zebre for granted – when the teams met at the end of last season the Italians romped to a 47-22 victory at the Stadio XXV Aprile.