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GUINNESS PRO12 Preview: Benetton Treviso v Ulster

GUINNESS PRO12 Preview: Benetton Treviso v Ulster

In what has been a positive week off the pitch for Ulster with the announcement of new deals for Dan Tuohy and Stuart McCloskey, the province will hope to follow up with an away win over Benetton Treviso.

GUINNESS PRO12: Sunday, January 11

BENETTON TREVISO (11th) v ULSTER (5th), Stadio di Monigo, 3pm local time/2pm Irish time (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland/Nuvolari TV)

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Team News: There are two changes to the Ulster team for Sunday afternoon’s GUINNESS PRO12 match against Benetton Treviso at the Stadio di Monigo.

Louis Ludik, who was rested for the Leinster match, returns to the side at full-back with Peter Nelson moving to the replacements bench.

Franco van der Merwe misses his first game of the season as he has a chest infection, so Alan O’Connor starts the game in the second row.

Ireland international Jared Payne has recovered from injury and is also named among the replacements.

Tommy Bowe, who sustained a dead leg against Leinster, is fit to face the Italian side and is joined by Ludik and Craig Gilroy in the back-three.

Darren Cave and Stuart Olding continue in midfield, while Paddy Jackson and Ruan Pienaar maintain their partnership in the half-backs.

Wiehahn Herbst and Callum Black start either side of captain Rory Best in the front row, while Dan Tuohy, who signed a new three-year contract with Ulster this week, links up with O’Connor (pictured below) in the second row.

The back row is unchanged from last week’s defeat in Dublin with Roger Wilson at number 8, Robbie Diack at blindside and Clive Ross selected at openside.

Forwards Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Bronson Ross, Lewis Stevenson and Sean Reidy join backs Paul Marshall, Payne and Nelson on the replacements bench for the BBC 2 Northern Ireland-televised encounter.

Meanwhile, Benetton Treviso have been boosted by their back-to-back derby wins over Zebre and are chasing a third successive victory for the first time since December 2012.

The hosts have made seven changes to the team that triumphed over their Italian rivals last week. Luca Morisi will partner Michele Campagnaro in the centre, while Edoardo Gori slots in at scrum half and Andrea Pratichetti moves to the left wing.

Stand-in captain Alessandro Zanni and Marco Barbini come into the back row and Rupert Harden gets the nod at tighthead prop following injury. Regular skipper Antonio Pavanello is ill, so Tomas Vallejos takes over from him in the second row.

BENETTON TREVISO: Jayden Hayward; Angelo Esposito, Michele Campagnaro, Luca Morisi, Andrea Pratichetti; Sam Christie, Edoardo Gori; Matteo Zanusso, Davide Giazzon, Rupert Harden, Tomas Vallejos, Corniel van Zyl, Marco Barbini, Alessandro Zanni (capt), Dean Budd.

Replacements: Albert Anae, Josè Novak, D’Arcy Rae, Marco Fuser, Francesco Minto, Meyer Swanepoel, James Ambrosini, Alberto Lucchese.

ULSTER: Louis Ludik; Tommy Bowe, Darren Cave, Stuart Olding, Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Callum Black, Rory Best, Wiehahn Herbst, Alan O’Connor, Dan Tuohy, Robbie Diack, Clive Ross, Roger Wilson.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Bronson Ross, Lewis Stevenson, Sean Reidy, Paul Marshall, Jared Payne, Peter Nelson.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Davies, Barrie Gregory (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Derek Bevan (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Benetton Treviso to win: 11/4; Draw: 22/1; Ulster to win: 1/4

Pre-Match Quotes: Rory Best (Ulster) – “We know that first and foremost we have to be the top four of the PRO12 by the end of the league competition. We know we are a top four team and we know we can be in those play-offs.

“There are a lot of injuries in the squad and the people coming in are doing a job. We have said as a group that it is not the 15 who lift the trophy that count, it is the guys who get you there.

“Leinster, whom we played last week, are probably the ultimate example of that. They went from fourth or fifth to top from the points they picked up during the Six Nations, when their frontliners were away last season. We are still scrapping away, we are still in there at the right end of the table.

“If we can keep our boys trucking away and keep getting the wins and get a bit of a run on during the Six Nations period, then we will be there. Starting on Sunday it is time for us to hit form.”

Allen Clarke (Ulster) – “(This is our biggest game of the season) because it’s our next match. It is going to be the game that makes sure that we remain within touching distance.

“When you look at the other fixtures you would expect the top sides to all get wins. However, nothing is certain in this league. Look at Edinburgh beating Glasgow. Not many people would have expected that.

“Over the Christmas period, all the top sides won one and lost one. It is critical that over this next period of games that we are accruing victories when those other teams are playing each other.

“I think our destiny is very much in our own hands. We are determined that at the back end of the season, when a lot of our senior, quality players are back, that we will be competing for the PRO12 Championship.”

Top Scorers – 2014/15 GUINNESS PRO12: Benetton Treviso – Points: Joe Carlisle, Jayden Hayward 44 each; Tries: Michele Campagnaro, Francesco Minto 3 each; Ulster – Points: Ian Humphreys 81; Tries: Andrew Trimble 4


Friday, October 7, 2011 – Ulster 12 Benetton Treviso 23, Ravenhill
Saturday, March 24, 2012 – Benetton Treviso 23 Ulster 27, Stadio di Monigo
Friday, November 23, 2012 – Benetton Treviso 15 Ulster 16, Stadio di Monigo
Friday, March 1, 2013 – Ulster 29 Benetton Treviso 29, Ravenhill
Friday, September 27, 2013 – Ulster 32 Benetton Treviso 13, Ravenhill
Sunday, February 23, 2014 – Benetton Treviso 12 Ulster 14, Stadio di Monigo


– Benetton Treviso have won their last two matches, both against Italian rivals Zebre, but have not won three in succession in the GUINNESS PRO12 since December 2012

– Treviso drew 24-all at home to Leinster in their most recent encounter with an Irish team, but have not lowered the colours of a province since beating Connacht at the Stadio di Monigo in October 2013

– Ulster’s only victory in the last four rounds of PRO12 action was at home to Connacht on December 26

– The Ulstermen have slipped to six straight defeats away from home in all competitions since they visited Cardiff Blues on September 19

– Ulster have already lost in Italy this season, having been defeated 13-6 by Zebre in round 4

– Treviso’s only victory over Ulster in 14 previous meetings in competitions was 23-12 in Belfast in the PRO12 in October 2011, while Ulster have been victorious on all seven previous occasions they have visited the Stadio di Monigo