Long-serving out-half Ronan O’Gara will become Munster’s most-capped player when he takes to the pitch against the Cardiff Blues at Musgrave Park on Saturday (kick-off 7.30pm).
Ronan O’Gara will be winning his 233rd competitive cap – one more than Peter Stringer – in the RaboDirect PRO12 encounter that acts as the ideal lead in to the final rounds of Heineken Cup pool action.
Just four players – captain Doug Howlett, centre James Downey, scrum half Conor Murray and the man-of-the-match against Ulster, Tommy O’Donnell – retain their places in the Munster team for the visit of the Blues to Cork.
Keith Earls returns from injury to partner James Downey in the centre, while South African back rower CJ Stander, who was nursing a broken bone in his hand, is fit enough to be named on the replacements bench.
Commenting on Earls’ availability again following a groin problem, head coach Rob Penney said: “He looks good. He came through the (Ireland training) camp last week.
“On the back of the camp last week it was decided we wouldn’t consider him for last week’s game (against Ulster), because of his history. But he’s come through this week really well and looks excited and ready to go, which is great.”
Asked about his selection policy during this busy January period, the New Zealander added: “I’ve got a more broadbrush stroke to the selection policy. I think we can grow people without compromising either team and that’s what we’re trying, endeavouring to do through this whole window, given that we get through the two Heinekens and whatever happens there, happens there.
“Then we lose all our internationals and it would be difficult if all our guys filling in for that Rabo block, post-Heineken, if they hadn’t had any post-Christmas footy. That’s a big ask, so there are a lot of things floating around in my head.
“And I’m new to this too, managing through this series and programme and I’m asking a lot of questions and getting a lot of information. I still think there’s an opportunity to grow people and achieve what you need to achieve.”
MUNSTER (v Cardiff Blues): Felix Jones; Doug Howlett (capt), Keith Earls, James Downey, Johne Murphy; Ronan O’Gara, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer, David Foley, Donnacha Ryan, Tommy O’Donnell, Sean Dougall, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Sean Henry, Wian du Preez, BJ Botha, Billy Holland, CJ Stander, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Casey Laulala.