The Munster team to face Zebre at Thomond Park on Friday (kick-off 7.30pm) has been named, and sees the return of Paul O’Connell, Conor Murray, David Kilcoyne, JJ Hanrahan, Paddy Butler and Denis Hurley to competitive action.
Head coach Anthony Foley has made seven changes to the team that defeated Benetton Treviso in Italy last Friday. Full-back Felix Jones retains the captaincy for a second consecutive game.
BJ Botha comes into the front row at tighthead prop with James Cronin and hooker Duncan Casey retaining their starting places.
Billy Holland lines out once again in the second row and is partnered by returning Ireland captain Paul O’Connell (pictured below).
In the back row, Paddy Butler makes his first appearance of the season at blindside flanker, with openside Tommy O’Donnell and number 8 Robin Copeland remaining in situ from round 2.
Conor Murray also returns at scrum half and is joined by Johnny Holland in the half-backs. A product of the Greencore Munster Academy, Holland began a senior development contract at the start of this season and will make his first competitive start for Munster on Friday night.
Denis Hurley opens his account for Munster this season at inside centre, partnering Andrew Smith who takes charge of the outside channel.
Following two 80-minute performances in rounds 1 and 2 of the PRO12, Andrew Conway’s place on the right wing goes to Ronan O’Mahony this week. O’Mahony was included on the bench last weekend but did not feature in the game. Simon Zebo retains responsibility for the left wing, as does skipper Jones at full-back.
David Kilcoyne, who toured Argentina with the Ireland squad in June, and JJ Hanrahan – a Nations Cup winner with Emerging Ireland that same month – will hope to begin their competitive seasons against Zebre as both players are named among the replacements.
MUNSTER (v Zebre): Felix Jones (capt); Ronan O’Mahony, Andrew Smith, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo; Johnny Holland, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Duncan Casey, BJ Botha, Billy Holland, Paul O’Connell, Paddy Butler, Tommy O’Donnell, Robin Copeland.
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, David Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Donncha O’Callaghan, Sean Dougall, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Johne Murphy.