Ulster have been boosted by the inclusion of Ian Humphreys, Darren Cave and Jared Payne to their team for Friday's clash with Treviso.
Ulster have been boosted by the inclusion of Ian Humphreys, Darren Cave and Jared Payne to the starting XV for Friday's clash with Treviso at Ravenhill.
The backline trio have overcome recent injuries with Humphreys (shoulder) replacing Paddy Jackson at fly-half and Cave replacing Luke Marshall in the centre. Cave is named at outside centre so Nevin Spence will move inside to wear the number 12 shirt.
Payne has shaken off a dead leg and will make only his third appearance for the Province at full-back in place of Adam D'Arcy.
Head Coach Brian McLaughlin has also made three personnel changes up front. Andi Kyriacou comes in for Nigel Brady at hooker after starting from the bench in last week's defeat to the Dragons. Tim Barker gets a chance to impress in the second row alongside Dan Tuohy, with Lewis Stevenson named among the replacements.
The other change in the pack will see Mike McComish make his first competitive start for the Province as he is named at openside flanker instead of Willie Faloon. Kyle McCall is among the replacements for the second consecutive week and could make his debut.
McLaughlin feels the returning players will make a difference in both attack and defence:
“To have the three guys back is fantastic. Ian will give us a lot of organisation and Darren is aa great communicator and a great defender. To have Jared back in there to add solidity at the back and a bit of spice in attack is very important for us as well,” said the coach.
He feels the time is right to rotate a few players up front as well:
“Mike McComish has been training hard and he played very well for his club Ballymena last week and we feel he deserves a chance. There is nothing really between Lewis and Tim, they're both great workhorses. Lewis has been excellent in the last few games but Tim did brilliantly for us last season so it's a matter of rotation.
“We know the Italian teams are very physical. This season they've added a lot of attacking rugby to their game and they are playing a nice brand and scoring tries… we will have to be at our best there's no doubt about that.”
Meanwhile, Treviso travel to Ravenhill off the back of consecutive wins but Ulster are one of three teams in the league that beat Treviso both home and away last season.
There is only one change in the backs to Franco Smith's side, Tobias Botes returns and starts after having recovered from the injury picked up during the friendly game against Bayonne nearly two months ago.
In the pack, Valerio BernabÃ² is paired with skipper Antonio Pavanello, while Benjamin Vermaak is playing flanker.
Treviso can count also on some players returning from the unlucky adventure in the World Cup in New Zealand.
Lorenzo Cittadini is starting as tight-head prop and centre Alberto Sgarbi starts from the bench.
Form: After beginning the season with three straight wins Ulster have now slipped to back to back defeats. The Ulstermen have won their last nine matches at Ravenhill in all competitions, since Leinster won there, 30-13, on 27 December. Benetton Treviso have won their last two RaboDirect PRO12 encounters against Glasgow and Scarlets and have never before recorded three successive victories in this tournament. Treviso have won just one of their last six matches against Irish provinces. Ulster have won all six previous clashes with Treviso in all competitions.
Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Nevin Spence, 11 Ian Whitten, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Chris Henry, 7 Mike McComish, 6 Pedrie Wannenburg, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Tim Barker , 3 Jerry Cronin, 2 Andi Kyriacou, 1 Declan Fitzpatrick.
Replacements: 16 Nigel Brady, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Robbie Diack, 21 Ian Porter, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Adam D'Arcy.
Treviso: 15 Ludovico Nitoglia, 14 Tommaso Iannone, 13 Ezio Galon, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Brendan Williams, 10 Kristopher Burton, 9 Tobias Botes, 8 Marco Filippucci, 7 Benjamin Vermaak, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Valerio BernabÃ², 4 Antonio Pavanello (c), 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Enrico Ceccato, 1 Michele Rizzo.
Replacements: 16 Diego Vidal, 17 Matteo Muccignat, 18 Carlo Fazzari, 19 Gonzalo PadrÃ², 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Willem De Waal, 22 Alberto Sgarbi, 23 Simon Picone.
Date: Friday 7 October
Kick-off: 19.05 BST (18.05 GMT)
Referee: Stefano Penne (FIR)