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Ulster v Treviso: Three key battles to decide the return leg

Experienced locks, exciting fullbacks and decisive scrum-halves; here are the vital head-to-heads.

Pienaar shows his respect during a minute's silence for Nelson Mandela last weekend.
Pienaar shows his respect during a minute's silence for Nelson Mandela last weekend.
Image: ©INPHO/Presseye/Darren Kidd

Ulster are away to Treviso tomorrow afternoon [KO 1.35pm Irish time] as they look for back-to-back wins over the Italians in Pool 5 of the Heineken Cup.

With both teams named, we’ve selected three of the key head-to-heads that may well have decisive says on the outcome of this round four clash. With Treviso smarting after last weekend’s 48-0 hammering, their performance looks certain to improve.

However, Ulster can secure an all-important victory on the road if they win these positional battles.

Ruan Pienaar v Edoardo Gori

The South African scrum-half has been the ticking heart of Ulster for some time, although it was encouraging to see Paddy Jackson assume more of the tactical decision-making burden last weekend at Ravenhill. Still, Pienaar is the calming, assured presence who Ulster will be relying on to avoid any hiccups in Italy.

Opposite him is Italian international Gori, who possesses an elusive breaking threat when his team get on the front foot. That’s the major task for Treviso tomorrow but if they can do so, their 23-year-old scrum-half will excel. With 29 caps for Italy already, Gori needs to begin leaving his imprint on important Heineken Cup games like this one.

Johann Muller v Antonio Pavanello

Captains both, and key components of their respective team’s line-outs and scrums. If Treviso are to turn things around after the drubbing last time out, they will need to get on top in an area where they are usually strong; the set-piece. The vastly experienced Pavanello will lead his pack’s efforts in that regard, as well as motivating them to avenge their embarrassment at Ravenhill.

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imageUlster captain Muller scans the scene at Ravenhill. ©INPHO/Presseye/Darren Kidd.

Muller will have a similarly important role in firing up the Ulster team in order to avoid any complacency. The South African lock is the main man in the northern province’s line-out too, in so much as he calls the plays. His 113kg bulk will also be vital as Treviso target the scrum as their means of retribution.

Jared Payne v Brendan Williams

The Kiwi fullback [and centre] has grown into a highly influential character in the Ulster dressing room over the last two years, and his teammates continue to be impressed with his knowledge and thinking on the game. Payne’s ability to glide onto the ball and change the point of attack makes Ulster an infinitely harder team to defend against.

One could certainly say the same about Williams’ rapid footwork and searing pace, although his contributions may be limited again if Pavanello and his pack cannot provide clean possession. Ulster must be wary of kicking loosely to one of Europe’s sharpest counter-attackers and their kick chase will need to be well-organised to prevent the Australian cutting them apart.

Ulster: Jared Payne; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Tom Court, Rob Herring, John Afoa, Johann Muller (capt.), Dan Tuohy, Robbie Diack, Sean Doyle, Roger Wilson.

Replacements: Niall Annett, Callum Black, Declan Fitzpatrick, Neil McComb, Mike McComish, Paul Marshall, Michael Allen, David McIlwaine.

Treviso: Brendan Williams; Ludovico Nitoglia, Michele Campagnaro, Alberto Sgarbi, Luke McLean; Alberto Di Bernardo, Edoardo Gori; Michele Rizzo, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Lorenzo Cittadini, Antonio Pavanello (capt.), Cornelius van Zyl, Alessandro Zanni, Manoa Vosawai, Robert Barbieri.

Replacements: Giovanni Maistri, Alberto de Marchi, Ignacio Fernandez Rouyet, Valerio Bernabo, Dean Budd, Paul Derbyshire, Tobias Botes James Ambrosini.

Where do you think this game will be won and lost for Ulster? Which are the key head-to-heads as Anscombe’s men look to complete back-to-back wins over Treviso?

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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