Payne could return as Ulster look to rescue season
ULSTER are unlikely to rest any of their big guns for Sunday's trip to Treviso as they look to rescue their season.
Despite the prospect of a six-day turnaround before they face Toulon at the intimidating surrounds of the Stade Felix Mayol, Neil Doak will call on the likes of Ireland front-liners Tommy Bowe and Rory Best and Springbok Ruan Pienaar.
The northern province hope to have Jared Payne back in their squad for the pivotal meeting with the Guinness Pro12's second-from-bottom side, who found form over Christmas, beating Italian rivals Zebre back-to-back.
Ulster's defeat to Leinster last Saturday left them outside the play-off positions. Already effectively out of Europe, all of their eggs are in the Pro12 basket and forwards coach Allen Clarke says they will throw everything they have at the Italians.
"This is a priority game for us," he admitted.
"It's our only focus at the moment, as it is the end of this block of Pro12 games. But it is very important that we pick the right side and group of players to do a good job in Treviso."
Clarke said the coaching staff have grown frustrated with the squad's lack of consistency this season.
"There has been so much inconsistency in terms of our performances," he said.
"For example, in the first half against Leinster I believe it was the best we've been since our win over Glasgow back in October. There was a more continuity, making line-breaks, but we didn't put them away.
"We are just not taking the opportunities that we have worked hard to create. We are just not building up the points on the scoreboard.
"There are elements of our game that are strong one week, and bad the next. We are not able to get that complete 80-minute performance.
"We trust in the players and their work ethic. We have a quality group of players and it is our priority that we stay in touch in terms of the league.
"We are not in a position that we wish to be in, but only five points are separating the top five teams. We have played Leinster, Munster and the Ospreys away - they have to come to us and in the next block of games they all play each other.
"So it is important in the next five games that we are gaining enough points on the road, which we haven't done, to put us in a healthy position."
Meanwhile, Scarlets have confirmed that they will lose Wales fly-half Rhys Priestland to Bath after this year's World Cup.
The 27-year-old will compete with George Ford for a starting spot at the Premiership club, who recently landed Glasgow scrum-half Niko Matawalu.