Munster head coach Rob Penney has made four changes to his Heineken Cup quarter-final-winning side for Saturday’s RaboDirect PRO12 derby date with Leinster at Thomond Park (kick-off 6.30pm).
The most noticeable of those changes comes at out-half where Ian Keatley gets the nod, with Ronan O’Gara absent from the 23-man squad and JJ Hanrahan providing back-up on the bench.
Keatley’s inclusion is the only change in the back-line from the Harlequins match, while up front Donncha O’Callaghan partners Paul O’Connell in the second row and front row duo Damien Varley and Stephen Archer come in for Mike Sherry and BJ Botha respectively.
O’Connell continues as captain as former All Black Doug Howlett, who picked up shoulder and thigh injuries in the recent defeat to Glasgow Warriors, remains an absentee.
Both Sherry and Botha are listed among the replacements along with promising prop James Cronin who makes the step up to a senior matchday squad for the first time.
The fit-again David O’Callaghan, a club-mate of Cronin’s at Dolphin, is back in the Munster squad for the first time since late December.
The young back rower has recovered from a knee injury and played for Munster ‘A’ in their British & Irish Cup quarter-final win over Cornish Pirates last Sunday.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s interprovincial derby, centre James Downey, one of Munster’s top performers against ‘Quins, said: “It was a cup game and everyone held their hands up (last weekend). I wanted the ball, all of us wanted it, and I maybe demanded it a bit more off ROG (Ronan O’Gara) than I normally would, I just wanted to get into the game.
“As it worked out, it is the kind of game I like, it suited my sort of style. It was a unique day to be a part of it at the end of the game when you are walking around and seeing so many Munster fans, wondering where they got all the tickets.
“As Paulie said, when you go out there you find someone in the crowd and look at them and you see what it means to them. They had paid good money to get over there and get the tickets – you have to produce for them, that’s what it’s all about.”
He added: “I think we have just got to keep it going. We need a couple of back-to-backs wins and no better game to have than Leinster to be honest.
“That Harlequins game was a full performance, but it is about backing it up now and we have to back it up this week.”
MUNSTER (v Leinster): Felix Jones; Denis Hurley, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, Stephen Archer, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Peter O’Mahony, Tommy O’Donnell, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Mike Sherry, James Cronin, BJ Botha, Billy Holland, David O’Callaghan, Cathal Sheridan, JJ Hanrahan, Ivan Dineen.