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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Benetton Treviso v Ulster

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Benetton Treviso v Ulster

With their home game against the Scarlets postponed, Ulster are keen to quickly get back in action as they chase down their play-off rivals in the RaboDirect PRO12.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Sunday, February 23

BENETTON TREVISO (10th) v ULSTER (5th), Stadio di Monigo, 3pm local time/2pm Irish time (live Sport Mediaset/BBC Sport NI Website/Red Button)

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Team News: Ruan Pienaar will start at out-half for Ulster against Benetton Treviso at Stadio di Monigo on Sunday, as Mark Anscombe’s side aims to make it five wins out of five in 2014.

Pienaar is partnered at half-back by Paul Marshall, who makes his first Ulster start since December.

Darren Cave switches from inside centre to his more familiar role in the number 13 jersey, with Jared Payne, Craig Gilroy and Luke Marshall, who all scored tries in the Heineken Cup pool match against Treviso at Stadio di Monigo in December, also named in the back-line.

Up front, Ricky Lutton starts at tighthead prop with Rob Herring named at hooker and Tom Court selected at loosehead.

Johann Muller captains the side from the second row where he is joined by Lewis Stevenson who has recovered from the neck injury that he sustained against the Ospreys.

Robbie Diack, Sean Doyle and Roger Wilson are all named in the back row, with Wilson set to make his 147th appearance for his home province.

John Afoa has returned to New Zealand due to a family bereavement, while Nick Williams was unavailable for selection.

The game in Parma on Sunday afternoon will be live on the BBC Sport NI website and BBC Red Button.

Meanwhile, despite shipping 11 tries in a 75-7 defeat way to the Ospreys, the Benetton Treviso team to take on Ulster shows only three changes in personnel.

Head coach Marius Goosen welcomes captain Antonio Pavanello back from international duty and he combines with Valerio Bernabò in the second row.

James Ambrosini picked up an injury in Swansea, so former Leinster out-half Mat Berquist will wear the number 10 jersey this weekend with Alberto Sgarbi returning at outside centre.

Brendan Williams reverts to the full-back position and Andrea Pratichetti moves to the left wing, while Manoa Vosawai takes over from the injured Christian Loamanu in the back row.

With Italy’s Six Nations campaign stretching Treviso’s resources, their matchday squad also includes a number of permit players from local clubs – Vea Femi CZ Rugby Rovigo Delta, Petrarca Padova and Marchiol Mogliano.

BENETTON TREVISO: Brendan Williams; Ludovico Nitoglia, Alberto Sgarbi, Enrico Bacchin, Andrea Pratichetti; Mat Berquist, Fabio Semenzato; Matteo Muccignat, Franco Sbaraglini, Ignacgio Fernandez-Rouyet, Antonio Pavanello (capt), Valerio Bernabò, Manoa Vosawai, Meyer Swanepoel, Marco Filippucci.

Replacements: Enrico Ceccato, Giovanni Maistri, Romulo Acosta, Corniel van Zyl, Edoardo Lubian, Alberto Lucchese, Joe van Niekerk, Alberto di Bernardo.

ULSTER: Jared Payne; Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Michael Allen; Ruan Pienaar, Paul Marshall; Tom Court, Rob Herring, Ricky Lutton, Johann Muller (capt), Lewis Stevenson, Robbie Diack, Sean Doyle, Roger Wilson.

Replacements: Niall Annett, Callum Black, Adam Macklin, Neil McComb, Mike McComish, Michael Heaney, Ricky Andrew, Rory Scholes.

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Andrea Spadoni, tbc (both Italy)
Television Match Official: Carlo Damasco (Italy)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Benetton Treviso to win: 8/1; Draw: 30/1; Ulster to win: 1/18

Pre-Match Quotes: Jonny Bell (Ulster) – “The players were left frustrated as they were completely prepared both mentally and physically for a tough fight and to have it (the Scarlets match) called off at the last minute was very disappointing for them.

“(With the internationals being away) it creates a huge opportunity for other players to step up to the mark and put their hands up for selection and also allows them to get valuable game-time in positions that they would otherwise not be able to play.

“We are very happy to have these experienced players back in our squad whenever they’re made available.

“The fact that Joe Schmidt rates those players so highly is a massive feather in their caps, it will give them the confidence to perform both at club and international level.

“Jared (Payne) is a hugely talented player and can play across the board in centre, wing and full-back. Darren (Cave) has been playing exceptionally well for us, he is arguably playing the best rugby of his career at the moment.

“Michael (Allen) has done really well, he has been frustrated due to the high standard of wingers that we have, but given a chance in the form of an injury or a player away on international duty, he can really show what he is capable of.

“He provides the strength in depth that the Ulster team require competing against the best teams in Europe.”

Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Benetton Treviso – Points: Mat Berquist 98; Tries: Ludovico Nitoglia 5; Ulster – Points: Paddy Jackson 82; Tries: Michael Allen, Jared Payne, Darren Cave 3 each


Friday, January 7, 2011 – Ulster 32 Benetton Treviso 13, Ravenhill
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


– Benetton Treviso have slipped to five straight defeats in all competitions since beating Zebre over Christmas

– Treviso were defeated by the Scarlets in their most recent home game in the PRO12 and have not lost successive matches in the league at Stadio di Monigo since November 2012

– Ulster’s only defeat in their last ten fixtures in all competitions since eerily November was 19-6 to Leinster at the RDS in the PRO12 on December 28

– The Ulstermen’s only previous defat to Italian opponents came in October 2011 at Ravenhill when Treviso were the visitors

– The two sides have met on 13 previous occasions in all competitions with Ulster winning 11, Treviso one and there has been one match drawn. Ulster have won on all six previous visits to Stadio di Monigo