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Anscombe springs selection surprise for clash with Italians

There have been a few unexpected outcomes in Ulster's selection to take on Treviso at the Stadio Monigo for tomorrow's PRO12 clash (kick-off 2.00pm GMT and live on the BBC red button and BBC Sport NI website).

First up, with Paddy Jackson on the Irish bench at Twickenham, Ulster coach Mark Anscombe has decided to start Ruan Pienaar at out-half, rejecting the opportunity to pick James McKinney.

This allows Paul Marshall to get a rare start at scrum-half with Pienaar shifting one out to his less favoured position.

Also unforeseen is the selection of Ricky Lutton at tight-head prop but this is because John Afoa has had to return to New Zealand due to a family bereavement which also means that Adam Macklin starts on the bench.

The omission of Nick Williams is notable. He has also had to return to New Zealand on a personal matter, which sees Roger Wilson make his 147th Ulster appearance while at number eight with Robbie Diack and Sean Doyle on the flanks.

At least there is one fairly expected call with Luke Marshall returning from Ireland camp again and lining out at inside centre with Darren Cave moving back out to wear the number 13.

This allows Jared Payne go to full-back and make up a dangerous back three containing Craig Gilroy and Michael Allen. Up front, with Iain Henderson required at Twickenham, Lewis Stevenson is back in the engine room alongside skipper Johann Muller.

It's hardly been the ideal preparation for their second trip to the Stadio di Monigo this season for what will be the fourth and final time the sides will cross swords in the current campaign, with Ulster so far having won all three with bonus points.

Thanks to last week's clash with the Scarlets succumbing to the weather, fifth-placed Ulster have not played since the Ospreys when, after returning from a three week break, they were less than convincing in winning 10-7 at Ravenhill.

Belfast Telegraph