Ulster v Aironi, Ravenhill
Ulster look to continue run against Aironi
December 8, 2011
Ulster will look to Ian Humphrey's boot to keep the scoreboard ticking over © Getty Images
Ulster will look to make it two from three in Pool 4 when they take on Aironi at Ravenhill on Friday.
The Irish side took their opening clash of the Heineken Cup against Clermont Auvergne but fell to the Leicester Tigers a weekend later 20-9. But they are showing signs of being back to their best having edged a narrow clash with the Scarlets last Friday in the RaboDirect PRO12 24-17. And they have already met their opponents on Friday once this season in the Celtic League. Aironi hosted Ulster back in Round 2 and it was the Irish side that took the points on the day with a narrow 25-19 win.
Aironi have not fared so well in the Heineken Cup, however. They are yet to pick up a point and lost at home to the Tigers in the opening round of the competition 28-12. And a week later, they were thoroughly outplayed by Clermont Auvergne losing to the French giants 54-3.
Ulster - Player to Watch: Ruan Pienaar is back in the white of Ulster and will be looking to showcase his immense array of talent against Aironi. On his day, Pienaar is a game-changer and will looks set to shine.
Ulster - Team News: Brian McLaughlin has recalled Ruan Pienaar at scrumhalf in place of Paul Marshall, who drops to the replacements bench. He is partnered at halfback with Ian Humphreys, and the backline remains otherwise unchanged. Paddy McAllister is given an opportunity to start at loosehead prop, with Ireland international Tom Court making way. Stefan Terblanche, who arrived in Belfast on Sunday, has gone straight into the matchday squad and will win his first cap for the Province if he takes the field
Aironi - Player to Watch: Fabio Ongaro is a weathered Heineken Cup veteran and knows what it takes to win in a pressure cauldron like Ravenhill. If Aironi are to cause a shock then they'll need their lineout to function.
Aironi - Team News: Aironi start with Giiulio Toniolatti at fullback with Sinoti Sinoti and Matteo Pratichetti outside him. Roberto Quartaroli and Gabriel Pizarro form the centre partnership with Tito Tebaldi and Tyson Keats at half-back. Josh Sole, Simone Favaro and Nicola Cattina form the back-row with Marco Bortolami Carlo del Fava at lock. Lorenzo Romano, Fabio Ongaro and Salvatore Perugini form the front-row
Key Battle: The battle of the fly-halves should be fascinating. Ian Humphreys can pin sides back with ease thanks to his boot while Tito Tebaldi is a confidence player. Expect fireworks in that department.
Trivia: Ulster have won all three of their meetings with Aironi prevailing 43-6 and 30-6 in the 2010-11 season
Stats: Ulster average 20 points a game in the Heineken Cup
"Paul is a terrific player and has proved himself over the past few weeks. But Ruan was the Magner's League Player of the Year last season so he deserves a chance. His match time has been limited so it will be good for him to get some time on the pitch. We now have two quality scrumhalves."
"I'm really excited for the opportunity and to do this with an Italian team that is young and ambitious, where I find a lot of team-mates with the Azzurri and a number of young talents who can represent the future of Aironi and Italy both during the next seasons."
Prediction: Ulster to romp home with a four-try bonus point in the process
© ESPN EMEA Ltd
"Wayne Barnes' decision to give Dylan Hartley his marching orders was brave but crucially it was the correct call." Graham Jenkins reports from the Premiership final
"We wanted to get the rugby spirit across to people, I firmly believe we have been in the thick of it." Tom Hamilton speaks to the ESPN crew on the final live broadcast
With the Lions' tour to Australia fast-approaching, ESPN's Austin Healey and Mark Durden-Smith sat down to share their memories of the 2001 trip Down Under
"The fans could not be happier with the opposition and it adds an exciting element to a game that is shaping up as a thriller." Ben Kay previews the Premiership final showdown