Ulster will want to put a stop to their two-match losing streak when they entertain Benetton Treviso at Ravenhill, a venue at which they have won their last nine matches in all competitions.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, October 7
ULSTER (5th) v BENETTON TREVISO (8th), Ravenhill, 7.05pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland)
Team News: Ulster have been boosted by the inclusion of Ian Humphreys, Darren Cave and Jared Payne in their starting line-up for Friday’s RaboDirect PRO12 game against Benetton Treviso at Ravenhill.
The back-line trio have overcome recent injuries with Humphreys (shoulder) replacing Paddy Jackson at out-half and Cave (hamstring) taking over from Luke Marshall in the centre.
Cave is named at outside centre so Nevin Spence will move inside to wear the number 12 jersey, while full-back Payne has shaken off a dead leg and will make only his third appearance for Ulster at the expense of Adam D’Arcy.
Head coach Brian McLaughlin has also made three personnel changes up front. Andi Kyriacou comes in for Nigel Brady at hooker after starting from the bench in last weekend’s defeat at the Newport Gwent Dragons.
Tim Barker gets a chance to impress in the second row alongside Dan Tuohy, with Lewis Stevenson named amongst the replacements.
The other change in the pack will see Mike McComish make his first competitive start for the province, replacing Willie Faloon at openside flanker. Young prop Kyle McCall could make his debut off the bench.
Ulster Rugby have a number of great value family and student ticket packages available for Friday’s game. Details can be found online at www.ulsterrugby.com or by calling the Ravenhill Ticket Office on tel: 02890493222 (option 2).
Ulster are also reminding supporters that Season Ticket zoning and scanning will be in operation at the ground and supporters should check their tickets to ensure that are entering through the correct gate. More details are available here.
Meanwhile, the selected Benetton Treviso side shows just one changes in the backs. Tobie Botes returns at scum half having recovered from the injury he picked up during a pre-season friendly against Bayonne nearly two months ago.
In the pack, Valerio Bernabò is paired with skipper Antonio Pavanello in the second row and Benjamin Vermaak slots into the back row at openside flanker.
Lorenzo Cittadini starts at tighthead prop after returning from Rugby World Cup duty with Italy. Centre Alberto Sgarbi is also back from New Zealand and starts from the bench.
ULSTER: Jared Payne; Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Nevin Spence, Ian Whitten; Ian Humphreys, Paul Marshall; Declan Fitzpatrick, Andi Kyriacou, Jerry Cronin, Tim Barker, Dan Tuohy, Pedrie Wannenburg, Mike McComish, Chris Henry (capt).
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Kyle McCall, Adam Macklin, Lewis Stevenson, Robbie Diack, Ian Porter, Paddy Jackson, Adam D’Arcy.
BENETTON TREVISO: Ludovico Nitoglia; Tommaso Iannone, Ezio Galon, Luca Morisi, Brendan Williams; Kris Burton, Tobie Botes; Michele Rizzo, Enrico Ceccato, Lorenzo Cittadini, Antonio Pavanello (capt), Valerio Bernabò, Francesco Minto, Benjamin Vermaak, Marco Filippucci.
Replacements: Diego Vidal, Matteo Muccignat, Carlo Fazzari, Gonzalo Padrò, Manoa Vosawai, Willem de Waal, Alberto Sgarbi, Alberto Chillon.
Referee: Stefano Penne (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Olly Hodges, Dave O’Brien (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ulster to win: 1/18; Draw: 40/1; Benetton Treviso to win: 15/2
Pre-Match Quotes: Brian McLaughlin (Ulster) – “To have the three guys back is fantastic. Ian (Humphreys) will give us a lot of organisation and Darren (Cave) is a great communicator and a great defender.
“To have Jared (Payne) back in there to add solidity at the back and a bit of spice in attack is very important for us as well.
“Over the last few weeks we’ve been very disappointed. Last season and early this season our young players have really done us proud but I think against the Ospreys and the Dragons it was maybe just a bridge too far.
“There is no doubt the young players are a talented bunch and the last few weeks has been a great learning experience for them.
“Mike McComish has been training hard and he played very well for his club Ballymena last week and we feel he deserves a chance.
“There is nothing really between Lewis (Stevenson) and Tim (Barker), they’re both great workhorses. Lewis has been excellent in the last few games but Tim did brilliantly for us last season so it’s a matter of rotation.
“We know the Italian teams are very physical. This season they’ve added a lot of attacking rugby to their game and they are playing a nice brand and scoring tries.
“we will have to be at our best there’s no doubt about that. But we’re delighted to be back in front of our home fans at Ravenhill and we’re hopeful that we can return to winning ways.”
Franco Smith (Benetton Treviso) – “Against Connacht, the Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys we were so close and it seemed to be a lack of experience and maturity which let us down.
“I think a lot of Saturday’s result (against the Scarlets) was thanks to the win in Glasgow. We definitely didn’t lack experience at Firhill and we seem to have been able to construct something from there.
“Both sides put in a huge amount of effort in the Scarlets game but we were really determined, especially in defence.
“I’m delighted for the boys because the results are starting to be seen, thanks to all the work and sacrifice they put in every day.
“I’m delighted with Brendan’s effort (in scoring a try and setting one up). Brendan, like the rest of them, played his part. He’s an important player for us.
“I am sure he’s someone who is better to have in your side rather than in opposition. But all the players here know that they are judged on what they give on the pitch and what they can do, not on what they have already done.”
Top Scorers – 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12: Benetton Treviso – Points: Kris Burton 51; Tries: Luca Morisi, Benjamin Vermaak, Ludovico Nitoglia, Brendan Williams 1 each; Ulster – Points: Ian Humphreys 30; Tries: Darren Cave 3
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, November 26, 2010 – Benetton Treviso 9 Ulster 19, Stadio di Monigo
Friday, January 7, 2011 – Ulster 32 Benetton Treviso 13, Ravenhill
– After beginning the season with three straight wins, Ulster have now slipped to back-to-back defeats
– The Ulstermen have won their last nine matches at Ravenhill in all competitions since Leinster won there (30-13) on December 27
– Benetton Treviso have won their last two RaboDirect PRO12 encounters against Glasgow Warriors and the Scarlets and have never before recorded three successive victories in this competition
– Treviso have won just one of their last six matches against Irish provinces, while Ulster have won all six previous clashes with Treviso in all competitions