Paul Marshall is set to win his 200th appearance and four players are set to make their debuts in Ulster’s Guinness PRO14 clash with Benetton Treviso tomorrow night. (Kick off 19:05)
Marshall starts on the bench while 19-year-old Aaron Hall is named at openside flanker. Former Leinster academy player Greg Jones is named on the bench alongside second row, Matthew Dalton. Summer signing from Southern Kings, Schalk van der Merwe is also set to make his long awaited first appearance as he is named on the bench.
Les Kiss has named a pack with an average age of 24. Loose-head prop, Callum Black is the only player over the age of 30 to start in the forwards while Clive Ross, 28, is the only other player over the age of 26 and he adds experience to a youthful back row. John Andrew retains his jersey at hooker despite Rob Herring being released from Ireland duty. Ross Kane makes his first start of the season at tighthead while Kieran Treadwell is joined by the impressive Alan O’Connor. Hall and Ross are joined in the back row by the returning Nick Timoney.
John Cooney and Pete Nelson are half back pairing and have only played 29 minutes of rugby together this season. Christian Lealiifano captains the side from inside centre and is joined by Louis Ludik. Tommy Bowe and Craig Gilroy are named on the wings while Charles Piutau hasn’t missed a minute of rugby since being replaced against Dragons in late September and is named at full back.
Matthew Dalton plays his rugby at Malone and featured in both of Ulster A’s matches against Scarlets Premiership Select and Cornish Pirates while Aaron Hall plays his rugby for Ballynahinch in 2b of the Ulster Bank League. Registered with Leinster at the time, Greg Jones was a member of the same 2016 Ireland U20’s Championship side as Adam McBurney, Johnny McPhillips and Jacob Stockdale. He has featured heavily for Banbridge in their impressive start to life in division 2b of the Ulster Bank League.
Treviso’s squad has been decimated due to international call ups and injuries. No less than 19 players are missing for their trip to Kingspan Stadium and only Tommaso Allan and Alberto Sgarbi of the starting team began the match in Stadio Monigo in September. Having ran Ulster close in gameweek two, Treviso defeated Edinburgh away from home as well as toppling Ospreys in the following two matches.
A win would mark a terrific milestone for Paul Marshall. Ulster’s veteran scrum half will become the third player to hit the 200-caps milestone this season and fifth player overall. Marshall brings a quicker tempo to the game compared to John Cooney and his predecessor Ruan Pienaar. One of Paul’s more memorable tries came against Leicester Tigers in 2012 when he typically caught the defence napping with a quick tap penalty.
I haven’t looked forward to an Ulster game this season as much as I have looked forward to this match. Iain Henderson is the only Ulster forward of the last five years to have nailed down an Irish spot. A lack of faith in the academy has been a criticism of Ulster Rugby in the last few seasons, so it’s pleasing to see Dalton, Hall and Jones receiving a chance. The players will learn a lot from turning out in a competitive PRO14 game and the coaches will receive a good impression of their strengths and weaknesses when playing at a professional level.
I’m hoping for a positive performance from the new caps, and won’t be too disheartened if the result goes against Ulster.
The FRU predicts: A tough to watch, narrow Ulster win. Both sides are severely depleted but Ulster’s youthful pack will be determined to lay down a marker for future matches.
|Charles Piutau||15||Luca Sperandio|
|Tommy Bowe||14||Tommaso Benvenuti|
|Louis Ludik||13||Ignacio Brex|
|Christian Lealiifano||12||Alberto Sgarbi (C)|
|Craig Gilroy||11||Andrea Bronzini|
|Peter Nelson||10||Tommaso Allan|
|John Cooney||9||Giorgio Bronzini|
|Callum Black||1||Cherif Traore|
|John Andrew||2||Tomas Baravalle|
|Ross Kane||3||Giuseppe Di Stefano|
|Kieran Treadwell||4||Alessandro Zanni|
|Alan O’Connor||5||Irné Herbst|
|Clive Ross||6||Whetu Douglas|
|Aaron Hall||7||Nasi Manu|
|Nick Timoney||8||Robert Barbieri|
|Rob Herring||16||Hame Faiva|
|Schalk vd Merwe||17||Nicola Quaglio|
|Andy Warwick||18||Alberto De Marchi|
|Matthew Dalton||19||Federico Ruzza|
|Greg Jones||20||Marco Barbini|
|Paul Marshall||21||Luca Crosato|
|Darren Cave||22||Marty Banks|
|Andrew Trimble||23||Luca Morisi|