Recovered from a groin injury, he comes in for his fellow Ireland international David Wallace, who featured strongly in the victory over the Dragons.
Team manager Shaun Payne said: "Alan has been bursting his guts to get back. We have had a hard job holding him back but he's certainly ready for it now."
Keith Earls, the three-try hero from that game, is also rested as Rua Tipoki returns.
The other switches see Denis Fogarty, Neil Ronan, Tony Buckley, Mike Prendergast, Jeremy Manning and John Hayes replace Frankie Sheahan, Donncha O'Callaghan, Marcus Horan, Tomas O'Leary, Paul Warwick and Darragh Hurley respectively.
Ronan O'Gara and team captain Paul O'Connell, who were both unused replacements against the Dragons, are expected to start Munster's second home game of the league campaign.
MUNSTER Squad (v Cardiff Blues): Backs (10) - Denis Hurley, Doug Howlett, Lifeimi Mafi, Rua Tipoki, Barry Murphy, Ian Dowling, Ronan O'Gara, Jeremy Manning, Peter Stringer, Mike Prendergast.
Forwards (12) - Federico Pucciariello, Tony Buckley, Jerry Flannery, Denis Fogarty, John Hayes, Paul O'Connell, Mick O'Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan, Niall Ronan, Alan Quinlan, John O'Sullivan, Justin Melck.