Munster have named a near full strength squad for their Magners League derby clash with Connacht at Thomond Park on Saturday night (kick-off 7.30pm).
The one omission from the side that saw off the Ospreys last Sunday in the Heineken Cup is Donncha O’Callaghan, who has been given the weekend off, while Donnacha Ryan, Michael Essex and Nick Williams are the new additions.
As head coach Tony McGahan explained, managing the players correctly in terms of game-time in such a crucial period of the season will be vital as Munster try to keep their double bid on track.
“We wanted to be competing well on all fronts and the next two games in the Magners League, against Connacht and the Scarlets, are very important,” McGahan said.
“But we only have to look at our training and the players in their last two outings have been very fresh and played with a lot of intensity so that’s down to great work from our strength and conditioning department.
“We need to keep continuing to look at that and make sure the players are looking forward to playing a game at the weekend.
“We’ve put forward many times that we have a huge depth in our squad and certainly we’ve looked to make sure that players are well rested.
“They’ve come back off a lot of rugby, they’ve had a lot of high intensity rugby and we want them looking forward to the weekend.
“We need to make decisions on how many games they play and keep monitoring them. It will be case by case with each player and we’ll address that during the week.”
Munster team manager Shaun Payne added: “There has been a lot of rugby for the Grand Slam guys. And it is not just the physical aspect of that, there is the mental side too.
“You are getting up and getting down the whole time for these really, really important games. It is every bit as mentally tiring as it is physically. I think we have managed to manage that very well this season.
“The Connacht game is huge for us given our position in the Magners League. We will manage the squad. We have a squad which is fully capable – you saw that in the All Blacks game.
“We have a minimal amount of injuries and there is plenty of scope.”
MUNSTER Squad (v Connacht): Backs (10) – Denis Hurley, Paul Warwick, Doug Howlett, Keith Earls, Lifeimi Mafi, Barry Murphy, Ian Dowling, Ronan O’Gara, Peter Stringer, Tomas O’Leary.
Forwards (14) – Tony Buckley, Marcus Horan, John Hayes, Michael Essex, Jerry Flannery, Denis Fogarty, Mick O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell, Donnacha Ryan, Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Niall Ronan, Denis Leamy, Nick Williams.