Pressure is building for Ulster to make progress
When Ulster travelled to Treviso last season it was on the back of some outstanding form in Europe and the Pro12, with consecutive wins over Munster, Montpelier, Leicester and Ospreys. Even so they were hard pressed to get out of Stadio Monigo with a two-point win.
Fast forward to this season and we're in a different world. It's just as well that the Italians are a pale image of the team that over previous seasons could give anyone a heap of hurry-up on their own patch, for Ulster are in dire need of assistance.
Were it not for their patchy win over Connacht over Christmas, they'd have zero returns from the last four games, and their away form is wretched, with six defeats on the trot in all competitions. So they are under acute pressure this afternoon to get a win in Treviso.
Never mind the need for a tonic ahead of going to Toulon next weekend to face the European champions, their preoccupation is to get further up the league table - so on that front both Connacht and Scarlets losing on Friday night gives them a chance to make progress today.
The return of Jared Payne then is perfectly timed both for province and country. He's on the bench this afternoon having been out since tearing foot ligaments against South Africa in November.
With Louis Ludik at fullback, it's a strong combination behind the scrum, and a pack good enough to overcome a home outfit who were hit for 48 points the last time they played non-Italian opposition, Edinburgh, just before Christmas.
Benetton Treviso: J Hayward; A Esposito, M Campagnaro, L Morisi, A Pratichetti; S Christie, E Gori; M Zanusso, D Giazzon, R Harden, T Vallejos, C van Zyl, M Barbini, D Budd, A Zanni (capt). Reps: A Anae,J Novak, D Rae, M Fuser, F Minto, M Swanepoel, J Ambrosini, A Lucchese.
Ulster: L Ludik; T Bowe, D Cave, S Olding, C Gilroy; P Jackson, R Pienaar; C Black, R Best, W Herbst, A O'Connor, D Tuohy, R Diack, R Wilson, C Ross. Reps: R Herring, A Warwick, B Ross, L Stevenson, S Reidy, P Marshall, J Payne, P Nelson.
Referee: B Whitehouse (Wales)
Treviso v Ulster,
BBC2 NI, 2.0
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