Experienced out-half Ronan O’Gara has been chosen as Munster’s captain for their festive Magners League derby clash with Connacht at the Sportsground on Monday (kick-off 6.10pm).
With a number of Munster’s Ireland internationals being rested as part of the IRFU Player Management Programme, the province’s starting line-up is much changed from last weekend’s Heineken Cup defeat at the Ospreys.
Paul Warwick and stand-in captain Ronan O’Gara are the only survivors in the back-line from that day, with the likes of Barry Murphy and Tom Gleeson, who have both impressed for the Munster ‘A’ side in recent weeks, slotting in.
Mike Sherry and Peter Borlase join Wian du Preez in the front row, ahead of completely new second row and back row combinations.
Donnacha Ryan returns for his first Magners League appearance since October, joining forces with the up-and-coming Ian Nagle who will be making his fourth ever league start.
Meanwhile, Alan Quinlan and Niall Ronan have Cashel youngster Paddy Butler alongside them in the back row.
The talented Butler, who starred for the Ireland Under-20s last season, will be making his senior debut for Munster at number 8.
Looking forward to the interprovincial derby, Quinlan said: “The disappointment of that defeat to the Ospreys in Swansea is still there but we have to put it behind us and focus for the next three weeks on the Magners League – starting with this game in Connacht.
“It’s never an easy place to go and get a result. We’d expect a typical derby encounter.
“There are no surprises when you play them (Connacht). They’re a good physical side, strong up front and they have pace in the backs with the likes of Fionn Carr.
“They’ve the kickers too to punish us if we don’t keep our discipline. So it’s a big challenge and I’d imagine it’ll be a tight game.”
MUNSTER (v Connacht): Paul Warwick; Barry Murphy, Tom Gleeson, Lifeimi Mafi, Denis Hurley; Ronan O’Gara (capt), Peter Stringer; Wian du Preez, Mike Sherry, Peter Borlase, Donnacha Ryan, Ian Nagle, Alan Quinlan, Niall Ronan, Paddy Butler.
Replacements: Sean Henry, Dave Ryan, John Hayes, Billy Holland, Tommy O’Donnell, Conor Murray, Johne Murphy, Scott Deasy.