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Ulster shuffle deck but injuries are no excuse for Bryn Cunningham

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 10/09/2016

Back again: Louis Ludik returns to Ulster’s starting line-up at full-back
Back again: Louis Ludik returns to Ulster’s starting line-up at full-back

Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss has made six changes to his side for this evening's visit to Treviso (5.05pm kick-off) with Irish international Stuart Olding set to win his 50th provincial cap at the Stadio Monigo.

With Charles Piutau (thumb) and Craig Gilroy (concussion) ruled out, last week's two-try hero Rob Lyttle comes onto the wing for his first start with Louis Ludik sufficiently recovered from the hand injury sustained in pre-season to start at full-back.

Luke Marshall is available again having had a late return to pre-season following his role on Ireland's summer tour to South Africa, and comes in for Stuart McCloskey who drops to the bench, although Rory Best, Paddy Jackson, Iain Henderson and Jared Payne - the latter also carrying a calf knock - are all still to be phased back into the side.

Despite the missing internationals, Ulster's Operations Director Bryn Cunningham says there is plenty of talent in the panel to get the job done.

"It's always something we face at this time of the season due to international availability," said the former full-back. "You're a victim of your own success in some ways with the amount of players we had in South Africa.

"We've a number of injuries too but that just shows you the importance of building a squad. We had a number of pre-season friendlies which meant we were able to get game-time for guys going right down to the Academy. Some of them are excelling now at the highest level, guys like Rob Lyttle, and we hope they'll have the ability to shine again against Treviso."

Summer signings Rodney Ah You and Kieran Treadwell will make their debuts at prop and lock respectively, while Kyle McCall has replaced Callum Black at loosehead.

There will also be a return from the bench for Darren Cave.

Having left the wet weather of home yesterday, Ulster landed in the heat of northern Italy but Cunningham does not see the conditions posing a problem for his squad, who spent a week of their pre-season in warm weather training.

"It's a big challenge but it's one we're really looking forward to," he added. "When you come to a country with beautiful weather it always gives the squad a lift.

"Our pre-season camp in Portugal should hold us in good stead. It was at least this hot if not a few degrees hotter so the boys are fit for it and used to these conditions."

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