Aironi may be without 10 of their first choice players who are away at the Rugby World Cup with Italy, but they are sure to give Ulster some headaches when the sides meet at Stadio Zaffanella on Saturday.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, September 10
AIRONI RUGBY (10th) v ULSTER (5th), Stadio Zaffanella, 3pm local time/2pm Irish time
Team News: Ulster head coach Brian McLaughlin has made only one change to the starting line-up to face Aironi at Stadio Zaffanella on Saturday.
Tim Barker has replaced Lewis Stevenson in the second row where he will partner Dan Tuohy. Stevenson drops to the bench as a result, so there is no place for Neil McComb in the matchday squad.
The pack is otherwise unchanged, with young prop Paddy McAllister joining Jerry Cronin and Andi Kyriacou in the front row.
Chris Henry, a try scorer against Glasgow, will again captain the side from number 8 alongside Willie Faloon and Pedrie Wannenburg.
McLaughlin will field the same back-line that started against Glasgow last week, with Ian Whitten, who impressed out of position on the wing, retaining his place.
Prop Declan Fitzpatrick has returned to duty after suffering concussion during pre-season and has been named on the bench. Luke Marshall has also earned a place among the replacements at the expense of young Peter Henderson.
New signing Jared Payne arrived from New Zealand on Monday and will travel to Italy but is not being rushed into action.
Meanwhile, McLaughlin’s Aironi counterpart Rowland Phillips has also made just one alteration to the side that lost to the Scarlets last time out.
Fabio Staibano will take over from Luca Redolfini at tight head prop, with Redolfini dropping to the replacements bench.
There is one other change to the replacements as Simone Favaro comes in for Filippo Ferrarini. If introduced at some stage during the game, Simone Favaro will be making his return to competitive action after time out with an injury.
The newly-arrived Tyson Keats is not in the Aironi’s 23-man matchday panel. The New Zealander only arrived in Italy last Wednesday after an intense period Down Under, where he played Super 15 rugby for the Hurricanes and all Taranaki’s games in the ITM Cup.
AIRONI RUGBY: Ruggero Trevisan; Riccardo Pavan, Roberto Quartaroli, Gabriel Pizarro, Giovanbattista Venditti; Naas Olivier, Tito Tebaldi; Matias Aguero, Roberto Santamaria (capt), Fabio Staibano, Joshua Furno, George Biagi, Josh Sole, Nicola Cattina, Nick Williams.
Replacements: Davide Giazzon, Alberto de Marchi, Luca Redolfini, Simone Favaro, Frans Viljoen, Giorgio Bronzini, Alberto Benettin, Gilberto Pavan.
ULSTER: Adam D’Arcy; Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Nevin Spence, Ian Whitten; Ian Humphreys, Paul Marshall; Paddy McAllister, Andi Kyriacou, Jerry Cronin, Tim Barker, Dan Tuohy, Pedrie Wannenburg, Willie Faloon, Chris Henry.
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Declan Fitzpatrick, Adam Macklin, Lewis Stevenson, Robbie Diack, Ian Porter, Paddy Jackson, Luke Marshall.
Referee: Neil Hennessy (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Alan Falzone, Giuseppe Vivarini (both Italy)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Aironi Rugby to win: 23/10; Draw: 20/1; Ulster to win: 1/3
Pre-Match Quotes: Paddy McAllister (Ulster) – “We’ve been doing video analysis on Aironi all week and no matter if you’re playing their third string team, it’s always going to be a big bruiser of a guy who is going to be very strong and physical.
“We’re getting our mindset to that, we need to match their physicality and more so that’s really what we’re concentrating on.
“It’s (my second start of the season) and a big opportunity, and it’s up to me to prove that I should be there and be on the starting team. I’m enjoying it and really looking forward to fighting for my place in the squad.
“Everyone on the squad has season targets and where you hope to be as a player by the end of the season. That’s broken down into long-term and short-term targets.
“For me, I set myself weekly targets – I’ll come away from a game and look at what I need to work on. I’ll set myself a target such as, ‘I want to carry this amount of ball’, ‘I want to do this amount in the scrums’, ‘this amount of tackles’, etc.
“For this season though, with the World Cup taking place, my main target is to be starting every game and to make it extremely difficult for him (Tom Court) to get his place back when he returns.”
Top Scorers – 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12: Aironi Rugby – Points: Naas Olivier 9; Tries: -; Ulster – Points: Ian Humphreys 13; Tries: Darren Cave, Paul Marshall, Chris Henry 1 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, September 11, 2010 – Aironi Rugby 15 Ulster 22, Stadio Zaffanella
Friday, March 4, 2011 – Ulster 23 Aironi Rugby 10, Ravenhill
– These two sides met on four occasions last season with the Ulstermen conceding just one try whilst scoring 14 themselves
– Aironi are still looking to add to their sole victory in this competition, which was gained against Connacht at Stadio Zaffanella last March
– Aironi lost 32-9 at the Scarlets in round 1 of the RaboDirect PRO12 last Sunday
– Ulster have won nine of their last ten regular season encounters in the competition, and have won all ten previous matches against Italian opposition in all tournaments