O'Connell's last appearance in a Munster jersey was in the final game of last season, the 38-20 victory over Glasgow Warriors at Musgrave Park while his last competitive action was for Ireland against Argentina in the September World Cup game.
O'Connell wasn't named in Munster's original 25 strong squad, Declan Kidney explaining that, "Paul's recovery was very much a question of monitoring it on a day to day basis. He trained earlier in the week but had we named him then it might have put unnecessary focus on him so we felt it better to wait and see how he came through yestreday's session before including him or not. He is fine today and now there is a possibility of him getting some game time on Friday."
Also returning to the squad after illness (pneunomia) is Tomas O'Leary who hasn't been involved since the game against London Wasps at the Ricoh Stadium and he is joined in the 22 by another performer from that game, Anthony Horgan, who comes into the starting XV in place of the injured Ian Dowling.
In all, Kidney makes 11 changes, one positional, from the side that started against Connacht last time out. That positional changes sees Donnacha Ryan move from lock to the back-row to partner David Wallace and Anthony Foley with Denis Leamy rested. There is an all new front row from the Connacht game, with Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery and John Hayes returning and Frank Sheahan and Tony Buckley, both of whom were impressive against Connacht listed on a strong bench.
Doug Howlett has been named in the subs and is also expected to make his debut for Munster.
Shaun Payne; Brian Carney, Rua Tipoki, Lifeimi Mafi, Anthony Horgan; Ronan O'Gara capt, Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes; Donncha O'Callaghan, Mick O'Driscoll; Donnacha Ryan, David Wallace, Anthony Foley.
Frank Sheahan, Tony Buckley, Paul O'Connell, Niall Ronan, Tomas O'Leary, Paul Warwick, Doug Howlett.