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O’Connell Returns For Interpro Derby

O’Connell Returns For Interpro Derby

Munster have received a boost for Saturday’s interprovincial derby against Connacht at Musgrave Park (kick-off 5.45pm), with the fit-again Paul O’Connell pencilled in to start in the second row alongside Donncha O’Callaghan.

Paul O’Connell has been out of action at this level since October and subsequently underwent back surgery. He resumed playing with the Munster ‘A’ team last week and followed up with a full 80 minutes for Young Munster last Saturday.

Munster head coach Rob Penney has made just three changes to the side that drew with the Ospreys recently, all those coming up front and more specifically in the back five.

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Not surprisingly O’Connell’s return forces Billy Holland back to the replacements bench and just as unsurprisingly Donncha O’Callaghan gets to partner him, while in the back row Sean Dougall returns to the starting line-up for the first time since the January encounter with Edinburgh.

The back-line remains the same as does the front row, while fit-again flanker Niall Ronan, who has been playing for Shannon in recent weeks, is included in the matchday squad for the first time since November.

Short just five frontline players – Conor Murray, Donnacha Ryan, Peter O’Mahony and the injured pair of Keith Earls and Luke O’Dea – it is a selection that gives due cognisance to the challenge faced on Saturday and the importance of the game.

There is only one play-off place within Munster’s reach and they vie for that fourth spot with defending champions the Ospreys and Scarlets.

MUNSTER (v Connacht): Felix Jones; Doug Howlett (capt), Casey Laulala, James Downey, Denis Hurley; Ronan O’Gara, Cathal Sheridan; David Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, Stephen Archer, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, Tommy O’Donnell, Sean Dougall, James Coughlan.

Replacements: Mike Sherry, Wian du Preez, BJ Botha, Billy Holland, Niall Ronan, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Ivan Dineen.