Paul O’Connell will make his first start of the season for Munster on Saturday evening when they take on the Cardiff Blues in the Magners League. Munster coach Declan Kidney has named O’Connell, Peter Stringer and Tony Buckley in his team for the Arms Park clash.
Having been hampered by a back injury since the World Cup, O’Connell has proven in his fitness in recent weeks with run-outs as a replacement in Munster’s league win at Edinburgh and Ireland’s Six Nations triumph over Scotland.
The Limerick-born lock will join Donnacha Ryan in the province’s second row this weekend, replacing his Ireland colleague Mick O’Driscoll who started the 11-7 victory over Edinburgh at Murrayfield.
In all, Munster boss Kidney has made three changes and one positional switch to the side that lined out in Scotland earlier this month. Brian Carney comes in for Ian Dowling on the right wing, with Doug Howlett moving over to the left.
With Rua Tipoki nursing a back strain he picked up in training, Kieran Lewis will join Lifeimi Mafi in the centre. The Munster replacements bench has also been chopped and changed with Eugene McGovern stepping in for Darragh Hurley and Mark Melbourne and John O’Sullivan the other new additions.
Jeremy Manning, who will be back playing his native New Zealand from next season, will provide the out-half cover in Cardiff. Tomorrow’s tie, which is being televised live on Setanta Sports 2 and S4C, has a 5.30pm kick-off time.
MUNSTER (v Cardiff Blues): Shaun Payne; Brian Carney, Kieran Lewis, Lifeimi Mafi, Doug Howlett; Paul Warwick, Peter Stringer; Federico Pucciariello, Frankie Sheahan, Tony Buckley, Donnacha Ryan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Alan Quinlan, Niall Ronan, Anthony Foley.
Replacements: Denis Fogarty, Eugene McGovern, Mark Melbourne, John O’Sullivan, James Coughlan, Tomas O’Leary, Jeremy Manning.