10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
...Paul O'Connell and David Wallace are in high spirits at Munster's training session on Wednesday at Temple Hill in Cork...
John Kelly, Barry Murphy and David Wallace have been included in a 25-man squad for Munster's Heineken Cup visit to Cardiff (Arms Park, kick-off 1pm) this Sunday, despite fears over their fitness.
All three had to be taken off during last weekend's Magners League win over Connacht, with Kelly picking up a hamstring injury, Murphy left nursing a sore shoulder and Wallace also sustained a leg injury.
If Wallace plays he will join a select band of players who have made 50 Heineken Cup appearances - his back row colleague Alan Quinlan is also set to hit the half century mark in the Welsh capital.
Former All Black Christian Cullen, who scored a try last week on his return from a shoulder injury, stands a chance of making his first Heineken Cup appearance since last April's quarter-final against Perpignan.
Meanwhile, Munster coach Declan Kidney, who is set to confirm his starting team and replacements on Friday, was pleased that his players were given a very stiff test by Connacht.
He said: "The Connacht game was tough. They asked a lot of questions of us in defence. We had to stack up there, because for long periods there was little or nothing between the sides.
"There were some aspects of the game that we got a lot of practice at. And there are other aspects that we must get more practice at so as not to be under the same type of pressure next week."
Munster captain Paul O'Connell is relishing the chance to put one over on Cardiff, as the Welshmen have beaten the current Heineken Cup champions on each of the three occasions that they have played each other in Europe - once in 1996 and twice in 1997.
Incredibly this weekend's Pool 4 showdown is the sides' first European meeting since September 1997.
O'Connell typically talked up the Blues and the calibre of their team, saying: "Cardiff will be dangerous opponents for a number of reasons, not least the fear that if they lose they could be out of Europe. It's a massive game for them.
They have lots of internationals playing. The experience is there in the side, and with home advantage it's bound to weigh things up in their favour.
Martyn Williams is in top form and Mike Phillips, their scrum half, has been a great signing for them. They've got class all over the pitch, so we're under no illusions about how difficult it's going to be.
MUNSTER Squad: Backs - Shaun Payne, Christian Cullen, John Kelly, Anthony Horgan, Trevor Halstead, Lifeimi Mafi, Barry Murphy, Ian Dowling, Ronan O'Gara, Jeremy Manning, Tomas O'Leary, Peter Stringer.
Forwards - Darragh Hurley, Federico Pucciariello, John Hayes, Andy Kyriacou, Frankie Sheahan, Chris Wyatt, Paul O'Connell (capt), Donncha O'Callaghan, Alan Quinlan, John O'Sullivan, Tim McGann, Denis Leamy, David Wallace.