Munster coach Tony McGahan has made three changes to his team for Friday’s Heineken Cup opener against French side Montauban at Thomond Park Stadium (kick-off 8pm).
Two of those changes are in the backs where Barry Murphy makes way for Lifeimi Mafi – Murphy is listed amongst the replacements – and Ian Dowling returns to the left wing in place of Anthony Horgan.
Up front, Jerry Flannery returns to the front row while Denis Fogarty gets the nod over Frankie Sheahan as hooker cover, following his recent run of form.
Commenting on the changes, Tony McGahan said: “The side chosen for this first Heineken Cup game is one based on current form. This side is, we believe, the best fit to get a result against a very competitive Montauban fifteen.
“There were some tough decisions because almost the whole squad of players were given an opportunity to impress over the course of the Magners League campaign to date and put their hand up for selection.
“We haven’t played against Montauban before but we have done a lot of analysis on them. They have a strong and physical forward pack, pace in the outside backs and possess a strong kicking game.
“Their consistent performances in the French Championship makes them fully deserving of a place in what is a very competitive pool alongside Clermont and Sale.
“Our approach is the same for every game in showing the opposition full respect while making sure we control our impact and decision making in getting the right result,” the Australian added.
“We have learned from our first game at Thomond Park last Saturday night and the conditions we faced could be similar.
“We’ve to be focused on our ball carrying and ball protection, otherwise like all good French sides they can score from anywhere.”
MUNSTER (v Montauban): Keith Earls, Doug Howlett, Rua Tipoki, Lifeimi Mafi, Ian Dowling, Ronan O’Gara, Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Paul O’Connell (capt), Donncha O’Callaghan, Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Justin Melck.
Replacements: Denis Fogarty, Federico Pucciariello, Donnacha Ryan, John O’Sullivan, Mike Prendergast, Paul Warwick, Barry Murphy.