Ulster should reach bonus territory against Benetton Treviso

Les Kiss rejigs his backline as they face an injury hit Italian side

 Jacob Stockdale  returns from an impressive summer tour with Ireland to take his place on the wing. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Jacob Stockdale returns from an impressive summer tour with Ireland to take his place on the wing. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Benetton Treviso v Ulster, Stadio Monigo, Saturday 5.05pm (BBC 2 NI)

Managing resources must become an art form if Les Kiss and Jono Gibbes are to guide Ulster up onto higher ground this season. Their most expensive foreigners, Marcell Coetzee and the departing Charles Piutau, are held back as Ireland winger Jacob Stockdale returns from an impressive summer tour while Matthew Rea makes his starting debut at blindside.

Sandwich enthusiast Tommy Bowe continues to elongate one of the great Irish rugby careers in what increasingly looks a permanent shift to centre. The wings are packed anyway, with Stockdale and Andrew Trimble hungry to nail down starting berths as Louis Ludik goes to fullback in Piutau’s absence.

Add Luke Marshall to the reserves, as big Stuart McCloskey holds on to number 12, and Kiss keeps juggling his quality three-quarter resources.

Kieran Treadwell, another who looked the part in green last June, partners Robbie Diack in the engine room with the suspicion being that the English born 21-year -old will eventually solidify a locking partnership with Iain Henderson.

Paul Marshall remains unavailable “due to family circumstances” so the John Cooney and Christian Lealiifano halfback combination continues.

Ian McKinley moves from fullback to outhalf for Treviso as Kiwi signing Marty Banks is one of 19 unfit players in Kieran Crowley’s squad. It’s a real chance for McKinley to convince Italy coach Conor O’Shea that he’s good enough for international selection.

Rain may slow the Ulster march to a four-try bonus point victory but should not deny it.

TREVISO: J Hayward; A Esposito, A Sgarbi (capt), T Allan, T Benvenuti; I McKinley, T Tebaldi; F Zani, L Bigi, S Ferrari; M Lazzaroni, F Ruzza; F Minto, S Negri, W Douglas. Replacements: E Makelara, C traore, T Pasquali, M barbini, A Steyn, G Bronzini, E Gori, M Zanon.

ULSTER: L Ludik; A Trimble (capt), T Bowe, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; C Lealiifano, J Cooney; C Black, R Herring, W Herbst; R Diack, K Treadwell; M Rea, S Reidy, J Deysel. Replacements: J Andrew, R Ah You, P Browne, C Henry, D Shanahan, P Nelson, L Marshall.

Referee: D Jones (Wales).

Betting: Ulster (-13.5 points) at 4/5.

Verdict: Ulster win.

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