Formidable Treviso a tough assignment for youthful Ulster
Presence of several experienced Italian internationals could prove decisive to outcome
Ireland squad member Rob Herring will start for Ulster against Benetton Treviso. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Benetton v Ulster, Stadio Comunale di Monigo (3.0, Irish time, live on Premier Sports)
Benetton coach Kieran Crowley includes Jayden Hayward, Tommaso Benvenuti, Tommaso Allan, Alessandro Zanni and Dean Budd in the starting line-up while there are several more Italian internationals on the bench.
Ireland squad members, Stuart McCloskey and Rob Herring start for an Ulster side that also contains former Ireland Under-20 international, Jack Hume, who is making his first senior appearance for the province.
Ireland Sevens international Robert Baloucoune gets his second cap after an impressive debut last week while Billy Burns returns at outhalf.
There is a slightly more seasoned look to the pack containing Ireland internationals, Herring, Marty Moore, Kieran Treadwell and Sean Reidy, alongside Springbok Marcell Coetzee. Number eight Nick Timoney has been one of the province’s standout performers this season.
Benetton will be smarting after last week’s 31-3 defeat to Leinster and with a stronger team available will be keen to return to winning ways.
The pitch at the Stadio Monigo is traditionally very heavy and soft underfoot, making it challenging to play a high tempo, expansive game; something that Ulster would prefer rather than becoming embroiled in earthier duel up front.
Ulster will need to be unyielding and precise in the set piece to try and get Coetzee, McCloskey and Henry Speight to provide them with positive gainlines but the suspicion is that Treviso might just have too much strength in depth.
BENETTON: J Hayward; R Tavuyara, I Brex, A Sgarbi, T Benvenuti; T Allan, D Duvenage; D Appiah, H Faiva, S Ferrari; I Herbst, A Zanni; D Budd (capt), M Lamaro, M Barbini. Replacements: T Baravalle, A De Marchi, M Riccioni, N Cannone, G Pettinelli, E Gori, A Rizzi, A Esposito.
ULSTER: P Nelson; R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey, H Speight; B Burns, D Shanahan; E O’Sullivan, R Herring, M Moore; A O’Connor (capt), K Treadwell; M Coetzee, S Reidy, N Timoney. Replacements: J Andrew, A Warwick, T O’Toole, C Ross, G Jones, J Stewart, J McPhillips, A Kernohan.
Referee: M Adamson (Scotland)