Denis Leamy and David Wallace return to the Munster side for Friday’s Heineken Cup Pool 1 showdown with Perpignan at Thomond Park (kick-off 8pm).
The selected Munster pack shows just two changes to the side that started against Benetton Treviso in round two of the Heineken Cup.
The continued absence of Marcus Horan provides a first Heineken Cup start for Springbok prop Wian du Preez, while John Hayes, who missed the Treviso game through suspension, returns on the tighthead side of the scrum at the expense of Tony Buckley.
Jerry Flannery, who was named in the extended squad, misses out because of what the Munster management describe as ‘a slight Achilles problem.’
In the back-line, coach Tony McGahan has opted for a Lifeimi Mafi-Keith Earls midfield combination, while Denis Hurley, after a short but impressive role as a replacement against Ospreys last week, edges out Ian Dowling on the left wing.
Munster captain Paul O’Connell is acutely aware of Perpignan’s strengths, particularly as they seem to mirror those most closely associated with Munster’s own biggest weapons.
The Ireland and Lions second row knows that Friday’s battle will be won and lost up front and that there will no place for shying away from close-quarter contact.
Munster’s talisman is expecting a hugely physical encounter, they type where no hiding place can be found and where men will be separated from boys.
Fortunately for the Munster faithful, it is exactly the kind of environment in which O’Connell excels.
“Obviously they’re a massive scrummaging side. The scrum is very big for them,” he said.
“They’re a very big mauling side. They maul most of the ball they get and they’re very good at it. It’s going tot be a very tough challenge.
“They kick a lot from their own half of the pitch but when they get into your half, they’re a typical French side, they play with a lot pace, play with a lot of width.
“They’re a bit like Clermont (Auvergne) in that they challenge you both ways. They take you on hard up front at scrum and maul and then when they’re in your half they like to go wide and have a very good back-line to do that.
“It’ll be very similar to the Clermont game here last year in that they’ll aim to take us on both ways.”
MUNSTER (v Perpignan): Paul Warwick; Doug Howlett, Keith Earls, Lifeimi Mafi, Denis Hurley; Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary; Wian du Preez, Denis Fogarty, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Denis Leamy.
Replacements: Damien Varley, Darragh Hurley, Tony Buckley, Mick O’Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan, Niall Ronan, Peter Stringer, Jean de Villiers.