Jerry Flannery is set to make his comeback for Munster off the replacements bench during their Magners League derby match against Ulster at Thomond Park on Saturday (kick-off 7.30pm).
Munster head coach Tony McGahan has made seven changes in personnel and two positional switches for the visit of Ulster to Limerick.
That means only six players – Denis Hurley, Peter Stringer, Wian du Preez, Peter Borlase, Ian Nagle and Niall Ronan – will start the game in the same numbered jersey they wore in last Monday’s 16-12 win at Connacht.
Hurley is joined by Scott Deasy and Doug Howlett in the back-three, with Keith Earls and Sam Tuitupou resuming their centre partnership.
Ronan O’Gara is unavailable as part of the IRFU Player Welfare Programme, so Paul Warwick moves from full-back to out-half.
With Alan Quinlan (elbow), James Coughlan (cheekbone), Dave Ryan (shoulder) and Peter O’Mahony (neck) all injured and Donncha O’Callaghan and David Wallace working with the Irish management this week, there are further changes up front for Munster.
Damien Varley, Mick O’Driscoll and stand-in captain Denis Leamy are restored to the starting line-up, with Donnacha Ryan moving to the back row to cover for the injured Quinlan.
Jerry Flannery has overcome a troublesome calf injury to take his place on the bench. His last appearance for Munster was as a replacement in the Heineken Cup win over Toulon in October.
Speaking yesterday, McGahan said: “Without a doubt we’d like to see Jerry hit the ground as soon as possible. He ran through 40 minutes on Tuesday with Shannon and he’s with the Ireland camp today so we’ll see how he showed up and make a decision on whether he can be involved.
“Jerry’s a super professional, he’s extremely driven both for himself and also for Munster and what they can achieve.
“He’s certainly a driving force behind the forward pack, through the set piece and the work-rate that he brings to the game.
“He’s a real ‘follow me’ type of player and over the last few years he’s added to his leadership credentials within the group.”
Reflecting on Monday’s hard-fought victory in Galway, he added: “Connacht is a tough place to go and they’re a tough proposition, especially against a Munster side and when the elements are like that and you have to play into them in the first half.
“So to come home with a result is in the nature of this period of the season, when you have to continue to dog and grind out.
“Maybe last year we might not have been good enough to get a result but we seem to have found a way this season to get those sort of results.”
Munster’s preparations for the Ulster game were completed at Cork IT yesterday (Thursday) – but without the starting trio of Stringer, O’Driscoll and Leamy, who were all involved in a national camp in Dublin.
Tomas O’Leary and Tony Buckley, who are on the province’s bench this weekend, were also in the capital.
MUNSTER (v Ulster): Scott Deasy; Doug Howlett, Keith Earls, Sam Tuitupou, Denis Hurley; Paul Warwick, Peter Stringer; Wian du Preez, Damien Varley, Peter Borlase, Ian Nagle, Mick O’Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan, Niall Ronan, Denis Leamy (capt).
Replacements: Jerry Flannery, Darragh Hurley, Tony Buckley, Billy Holland, Tommy O’Donnell, Tomas O’Leary, Lifeimi Mafi, Barry Murphy.