O'Connor hoping to impress Anscombe
HAVING remained in Parma for a week between their back-to-back Italian jobs, Ulster take on Treviso this evening hoping for an improved display after escaping from Zebre with a 10th successive win.
Mark Anscombe's side's start to the season on the pitch couldn't have gone better and now the New Zealander is looking to kick on and stretch the gap they hold at the top of the table.
Six points clear of the Scarlets and 12 above fifth place, the northern province are sailing towards the play-offs. If they continue like this, they'll have a last-four spot booked well before Easter.
The knock-on effect of their success is the increased involvement of Anscombe's charges at international level, with Craig Gilroy promoted to the Irish starting XV and Luke Marshall and Paddy Jackson among those not released back to their province.
Andrew Trimble returns after his disappointing outing against South Africa, while scrum-half Paul Marshall starts after an impressive cameo in the win over Fiji.
They bolster an experienced core that includes centres Paddy Wallace and Jared Payne, Ireland capped pair Tom Court and Declan Fitzpatrick and a back-row of Nick Williams, Mike McComish and Roger Wilson, who skippers the side as he continues his return to action after a long-term lay-off.
Ulster out-half Niall O'Connor is hoping to take advantage of Jackson's absence and force his way into Anscombe's plans.
"Mark has spent the last couple of weeks emphasising the point about boys taking their opportunity," he said.
"Treviso have proved they are a good side with a good home record. It'll be another step up from last Sunday, so we'll need to be on our game and play a lot better than last week if we want to continue our winning streak.
"We worked hard on our failings of last week, so, hopefully, we have learned the lessons well."
Anscombe will hope the prospect of getting into his winning team will drive his players to their second win in Italy in a week.
TREVISO – B Williams; G Toniolatti, C Loamanu, A Vilk, L Nitoglia; A Di Bernardo, F Semenzato; M Muccignat, F Sbaraglini, J Roux; M Fuser, C Van Zyl; V Bernabo, P Derbyshire, M Filippucci. Reps: E Ceccato, G Maistri, I Fernandez-Rouyet, F Giusti, A Pratichetti, A Esposito, J Ambrosini, L Morisi.
ULSTER – P Nelson; A Trimble, J Payne, P Wallace, M Allen; N O'Connor, P Marshall; T Court, R Herring, D Fitzpatrick, R Diack, N McComb, N Williams, M McComish, R Wilson (capt). Reps: N Brady, C Black, J Afoa, J Simpson, A Birch, M Heaney, S Olding, C Cochrane.
REF – P Allan (SRU).