Match Preview: Benetton Rugby Treviso vs. Ulster Rugby

Stuart Olding

Stuart Olding will make his first start for Ulster in ten months

After all of that, our European dream has ended in disappointment.

Despite doing all we needed to do, including adding an extra four tries on top of the four we needed, ultimately only one result went our way when we needed two, and we are now out of Europe. It may yet prove to be a blessing in disguise as the odds of us overcoming Saracens at the third time of asking were stacked firmly against us. Better that we put all our focus on the PRO12, a tournament we can win.

Which brings us nicely to this weekend as we travel to fair Verona. Well, not quite, but at an hour and a half away Treviso is close enough I suppose.

Now that we no longer have the Champions’ Cup to distract us, we have to start racking up the points in the league to give us the best chance of reaching the top four at the season with the best possible chance of taking one of the top two spots and bringing a semi-final to the Kingspan Stadium. Should we do that then a trip to Murrayfield in May should be on the cards.

We should clean up against Treviso, however the emphasis is on the word should. Treviso are in the unenviable position of having played 18, lost 18 so far this season and unless they can find some form from somewhere then they are staring at the real possibility of finishing the season without one victory to their name.

It’s not hard to see why though. When they lost the international duo of Simone Favaro and Michele Campagnaro you began to worry, and then when Mat Luamanu and Tomas Vallejos both decided to jump ship too there was a realisation that Treviso were in trouble. They managed to recover Luke McLean from Sale and Robert Barbieri from Leicester, but that did nothing to improve matters.

Now they are where they are, dumped out of Europe without a solitary point to their name, ten points behind Zebre in the race for the Italian Champions’ Cup place and without a coach for the rest of the season. Treviso are not in a good place right now, and we simply have to take advantage of that.

We may be missing our international players, but that’s no excuse either because we still have the core of our team available to us, as well as the returning Stuart Olding in the midfield to get excited about. And when you see how other teams have pillaged the Stadio di Monigo, you know we need to do that too if we want to be in the mix come the end of the season.

We do have to be careful though because Treviso will be desperate for any kind of a victory and they will be targeting their home games as the ones where they will get it. Although I still think we should be prioritising this as a probable five-pointer, there still needs to be a degree of wariness about our play because Treviso will be up for the fight at home.

But this is a game we should be comfortable winners in if we want to be taken seriously as contenders.

The stats

Treviso have lost their last 25 games in all competitions, with their last win coming against the Cardiff Blues at the Stadio di Monigo back in February 2015. In that losing streak they have only picked up eight points. The Italians are also waiting for their first win over an Irish province since October 2013 when they defeated Connacht at home.

We on the other hand have won two of our last three away matches in the Guinness PRO12 against the Newport-Gwent Dragons and Connacht, while in the other game we picked up a losing bonus point away to Leinster. Our only defeat to Italian opposition since October 2011 was our ill-fated visit to Zebre in September 2014 when Declan Fitzpatrick was sent off.

We have met Treviso on 17 occasions in all competitions and we have only lost once – a 23-11 reversal in Belfast in October 2011.

The teams

Treviso’s team features nine changes to last week’s European defeat to Munster. Ludovico Nitoglia and Tommaso Iannone come into the back three in place of Andrea Pratichetti and Simone Ragusi who are named on the bench, while centre Alberto Sgarbi is named captain. Sam Christie is preferred to James Ambrosini at fly-half having been on the bench last week. Simone Ferrari is the only survivor in the front row with Alberto de Marchi and Roberto Santamaria joining him, replacing the Italian pairing of Matteo Zanusso and Ornel Gega. Filo Paulo and Tom Palmer form a new second row partnership while in the back row Andrea de Marchi and Robert Barbieri replace Alessandro Zanni and Abraham Steyn respectively.

Seven changes for Ulster with the big news being Stuart Olding’s first start for ten months having recovered from an ACL injury. He starts at inside centre with Luke Marshall named on the bench, while Louis Ludik and Rory Scholes come into the back three for Ireland duo Jared Payne and Andrew Trimble. Ian Humphreys is the other change in the backs as he starts at fly-half in place of Paddy Jackson. Up front Callum Black replaces the concussed Kyle McCall at loosehead prop while in the back row Clive Ross and Roger Wilson start instead of the rested Robbie Diack and the injured Nick Williams. Academy duo Lorcan Dow and Jacob Stockdale could make their first senior appearances off the bench should they be called upon.

 

Benetton Rugby Treviso vs. Ulster Rugby

Saturday 30th January, 17:00

Stadio Communale di Monigo

Guinness PRO12 – Round 13

 

Live on BBC2 NI and TG4

 

BENETTON RUGBY TREVISO

15. Jayden Hayward, 14. Ludovico Nitoglia, 13. Enrico Bacchin, 12. Alberto Sgarbi (capt.), 11. Tommaso Iannone, 10. Sam Christie, 9. Alberto Lucchese; 1. Alberto de Marchi, 2. Roberto Santamaria, 3. Simone Ferrari, 4. Filo Paulo, 5. Tom Palmer, 6. Andrea de Marchi, 7. Marco Lazzaroni, 8. Robert Barbieri.

Replacements: 16. Luca Bigi, 17. Cherif Traore, 18. Filippo Filippetto, 19. Jeff Montauriol, 20. Abraham Steyn, 21. James Ambrosini, 22. Simone Ragusi, 23. Andrea Pratichetti.

ULSTER RUGBY

15. Louis Ludik, 14. Rory Scholes, 13. Darren Cave, 12. Stuart Olding, 11. Craig Gilroy, 10. Ian Humphreys, 9. Paul Marshall; 1. Callum Black, 2. Rob Herring (capt.), 3. Ricky Lutton, 4. Alan O’Connor, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 6. Clive Ross, 7. Sean Reidy, 8. Roger Wilson.

Replacements: 16. John Andrew, 17. Andy Warwick, 18. Bronson Ross, 19. Pete Browne, 20. Lorcan Dow, 21. David Shanahan, 22. Luke Marshall, 23. Jacob Stockdale.

 

Referee: Ian Davies (WRU, 40th competition game)

Assistant Referees: Giuseppe Vivarini, Simone Boaretto (both FIR)

Citing Commissioner: Francesco Grillo (FIR)

TMO: Stefano Penne (FIR)