Munster head coach Tony McGahan has made five personnel changes to his team for Sunday’s Heineken Cup Pool 3 showdown with the Ospreys at Thomond Park (kick-off 1pm).
From the side that started last weekend’s 16-9 Magners League victory over the Cardiff Blues, there are three changes in the backs and two in the forwards.
Paul Warwick and Doug Howlett return at full-back and on the right wing respectively, with Lifeimi Mafi and Denis Hurley making way and Johne Murphy switching to the left wing.
Tomas O’Leary gets the nod over Peter Stringer at scrum half, while James Coughlan and David Wallace take over from Alan Quinlan and Niall Ronan in the back row. The front five is unchanged.
Quinlan, who could take his Munster caps record to 206 matches, is joined on the replacements bench by the province’s fit-again captain Paul O’Connell, who is poised for his first involvement in this season’s Heineken Cup.
The Thomond Park gates will open at 11am for Sunday’s sold-out clash, which is Munster’s second game against the Ospreys in recent months. Back in September, they beat the Welsh side 22-10 at the same Limerick venue in the Magners League.
Previewing this weekend’s European encounter, O’Connell said: “It would be brilliant to get back involved in Heineken Cup action, I haven’t been involved in Europe since last January.
“But it’s also important that I’m patient. We have an incredible number of high class second rows in the squad.
“There’s massive strength in depth in that position and it’s important that I get up to the level they’re at before I can be considered for selection.”
He added: “These back-to-back games with the Ospreys are going to be really tough – two big games which will decide if we’re still in the pool come January.
“The Ospreys have an incredible staff of players, New Zealand internationals, Lions, Welsh internationals and Scottish internationals. They’ve a phenomenal squad and one of the biggest budgets in Europe.
“They’re a really big challenge for us back-to-back. We’ve beaten them already this season but we lost twice to them last year in the Magners League, which they went on to win by beating Leinster away from home.
“They’re an excellent side and are a lot more experienced than when we played them in Heineken Cup a couple of seasons ago. It’s going to be very tough.”
MUNSTER (v Ospreys): Paul Warwick; Doug Howlett, Keith Earls, Sam Tuitupou, Johne Murphy; Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary; Wian du Preez, Damien Varley, Tony Buckley, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll, James Coughlan, David Wallace, Denis Leamy (capt).
Replacements: Mike Sherry, Darragh Hurley, John Hayes, Paul O’Connell, Alan Quinlan, Peter Stringer, Lifeimi Mafi, Denis Hurley.