Preview: Ulster v Aironi

Date published: March 29 2012

Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has once again made several changes for their RaboDirect PRO12 fixture against Aironi at Ravenhill.

Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has once again made several changes to his starting XV for their RaboDirect PRO12 clash with Aironi at Ravenhill.

He welcomes back Rory Best, Andrew Trimble and Stephen Ferris following their exploits with Ireland. Lewis Stevenson's fine form in recent weeks has been rewarded with a starting place in the second row alongside captain Johann Muller. Dan Tuohy is named on the bench as a result.

Pedrie Wannenburg has recovered from the illness which ruled him out of last week's trip to Treviso so he will earn his 50th Ulster cap in front of the Ravenhill faithful. The South African number eight is joined in the back row by Ferris and Chris Henry, who moves from the blindside flank to 7.

The half-back and centre partnerships remain unchanged as McLaughlin looks for a settled team ahead of the Heineken Cup quarter final against Munster on Easter Sunday. The return of Trimble means Craig Gilroy switches to the left wing and Stefan Terblanche moves to fullback at the expense of Adam D'Arcy.

“Whenever Rory, Andrew and Stevie come back into the squad in gives everyone a great fillip. They have such high standards and demand the same from the other players,” said McLaughlin.

“Lewis has been in very good form over the past couple of months. He was very good for us when he came off the bench in Treviso for the final 15 or 20 minutes so he deserves his chance. Everyone knows there are places up for grabs in every position and we have great competition throughout the squad. If players get chances they have to take them.

“With Stephen back in and Pedrie fit again, the back row is another area where we are particularly strong. It is harsh on Robbie Diack and Willie Faloon and other players who have been left out.”

Meanwhile, Aironi will run out for their second straight away match at Ravenhill when they face Ulster for the eighth time in two years this Friday. Head coach Rowland Phillips shuffles his cards and opts for a different starting XV from the team that lost to Glasgow last week.

Tito Tebaldi returns to his usual position as scrum-half, pairing up with Naas Olivier. Giulio Toniolatti is at full-back, while wing Giovanbattista Venditti (who turned 22 earlier this week) is back on the team after his two tries for Italy during the Six Nations. Sinoti Sinoti stays on the opposite wing, with Matteo Pratichetti and Roberto Quartaroli pairing again at centres.

In the pack, only the second row remains unchanged, with captain Carlo Del Fava and George Biagi still retaining the starting job. With Nick Williams and Josh Sole still unavailable and with Simone Favaro injured, Mauro Bergamasco will play at number eight with Nicola Cattina and Joshua Furno on the flank.

In the front-row, tighthead prop Fabio Staibano is back. Alberto De Marchi will play at loosehead with Fabio Ongaro hooking.

Antonio Denti (who made his debut last week), Andrea De Marchi, Salvatore Perugini, Quintin Geldenhuys, Filippo Ferrarini, Tyson Keats, Luciano Orquera and Gilberto Pavan are the replacements.

Luciano Orquera needs one more point to become the first Aironi player to score at least 100 point ina season in all the competitions for Aironi.

Form: Ulster are currently the best performing team in the RaboDirect PRO12 having picked up 24 points from their last six matches. The Ulstermen's only defeat in the competition since December was 14-21 at Cardiff Blues on 17 February. Ulster have lost only once before to an Italian side: 12-23 to Benetton Treviso on 7 October 2011. Aironi Rugby tripped up at Glasgow last Friday and are still searching for that elusive first away victory in franchise history. Aironi have won two of their last three matches against Irish provinces. The two teams have met on seven previous occasions in all competitions, with Ulster winning all seven.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Lewis Stevenson, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 John Afoa, 2 Rory Best, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Nigel Brady, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Willie Faloon, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Ian Whitten, 23 Adam D'Arcy.

Aironi: 15 Giulio Toniolatti, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Roberto Quartaroli, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Mauro Bergamasco, 7 Nicola Cattina, 6 Joshua Furno; 5 Carlo Del Fava (capt), 4 George Biagi, 3 Fabio Staibano, 2 Fabio Ongaro, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Antonio Denti, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Salvatore Perugini, 19 Quintin Geldenhuys, 20 Filippo Ferrarini, 21 Tyson Keats, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Gilberto Pavan.

Date: Friday, March 30
Kick-off: 19:05 BST
Venue: Ravenhill
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Dudley Phillips (Ireland), Johan Carvill (Ireland) (Ireland)
Television match official: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)
Assessor: Brian Stirling (Ireland)