Munster head coach Rob Penney has included Paul O’Connell on the replacements bench to face the Newport Gwent Dragons in the RaboDirect PRO12 at Musgrave Park on Saturday (kick-off 6.45pm).
Following a promising first outing in the league against Edinburgh, James Cronin has been selected to start at loosehead prop alongside hooker Damien Varley and John Ryan in the front row.
Keith Earls shifts in from the wing to start in the number 13 jersey in a new centre partnership with Ivan Dineen.
Felix Jones is also in line to make his first appearance of the season after recovering from shoulder surgery. He is named amongst the replacements, as is Paul O’Connell who has not played since fracturing his right forearm during the Lions tour in the summer.
Varley is eager to banish memories of Munster’s defeat away to Benetton Treviso last time out, stating: “It was a very disappointing result that we were gutted.
“We had it in our grasp when (we were) ten points up, but obviously we have to take it on the chin and regroup this week with a few big matches coming up. You can’t win a game when you have four guys in the sin-bin.”
The Garryowen clubman has had some time to experience the new scrum laws, so what does he make of them so far?
“The purpose of the new laws is to stop the amount of collapses of the last few years and I think it has certainly helped,” admitted Varley.
“Scrummaging is such a technical area that I think it will take a number of weeks for referees and teams to get used to it.
“It has gone back to ‘old school’ hooking skills and that’s not a bad thing for guys who like to scrummage, so it’s a new skill for a lot of young guys and hopefully a strength of our game.”
MUNSTER (v Newport Gwent Dragons): Johne Murphy; Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Ivan Dineen, Simon Zebo; JJ Hanrahan, Cathal Sheridan; James Cronin, Damien Varley, John Ryan, Donncha O’Callaghan, David Foley, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Sean Dougall, Paddy Butler.
Replacements: Mike Sherry, David Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Paul O’Connell, CJ Stander, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Felix Jones.