Ronan O’Gara and Donncha O’Callaghan have been named in a Munster matchday squad for the first time this season. Keith Earls also joins them in the province’s starting line-up for Sunday’s Magners League clash with the Dragons at Musgrave Park (kick-off 5.05pm).
Keith Earls has been named at full-back in place of Felix Jones, who moves to the wing, with Denis Hurley on the other flank and coach Tony McGahan retaining the midfield pairing of Barry Murphy and Lifeimi Mafi.
That means Munster’s most recent arrival, Springbok centre Jean de Villiers, is set to make his debut for the province off the bench.
Skipper Paul O’Connell, who had been named in the original squad, was not considered for the game due to a slight hamstring problem.
The injury that Niall Ronan suffered in last weekend’s win over the Scarlets and the continued absence of David Wallace means Tommy O’Donnell gets to wear the number 7 jersey, while Nick Williams returns from a knee injury to anchor the scrum.
Looking forward to his first appearance in Munster red this season, Donncha O’Callaghan said: “I can’t wait to get back into it. I’m no use watching games. I just love to be playing.
“I understand the thinking in keeping us (internationals) out of it for the opening rounds of the Magners League. And it works to our benefit.
“It’s a long season what with internationals and that, but still I’d be in there from the start if I could.”
He added: “The Dragons have started the league really well and what I’ve seen from their tapes, they’re a much more confident outfit this season.
“This is certainly their best start but they’ve always been a hard side to play against – a good, physical side up front and well able to spread the ball.
“I think they are going to be a very difficult side to play against but with a full Musgrave Park roaring us on, it will be a full-on game.”
MUNSTER (v Newport Gwent Dragons): Keith Earls; Felix Jones, Barry Murphy, Lifeimi Mafi, Denis Hurley; Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary; Marcus Horan, Denis Fogarty, Tony Buckley, Mick O’Driscoll, Donncha O’Callaghan, Alan Quinlan,Tommy O’Donnell, Nick Williams.
Replacements: Damien Varley, Julien Brugnaut, Donnacha Ryan, James Coughlan, Toby Morland, Jeremy Manning, Jean de Villiers.