Nineteen of those who played in th Heineken Cup semi final defeat to Leinster last May feature in the Munster squad for tomorrow’s Magners League clash with Leinster at the RDS.
And this game sees the appearance for the first time this season of Keith Earls, Ian Dowling, Jerry Flannery, Paul O’Connell and David Wallace while Paul Warwick returns to the match day squad after injuring a foot in the pre-season game against Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.
Earls and O’Connell were due to turn out against Dragons last weekend but were denied by illness and injury respectively but both came through training yesterday with flying colours and while Earls is in from the off, the Lions captain will start from the bench.
Speaking at yesterday’s press conference at UL, explaining why reporters had seen him with an ice pack, O’Connell said, “Its (hamstring) fine now, not a problem. I have to manage it thats all, that’s why the ice, and thats why I didn’t play last week. I wont play a full game on Saturday cause it’s my first game back rather than anything else really. I’m looking forward to getting back on the field. This game comes as the ideal preparation both for myself and the squad ahead of the European games coming up. Really looking forward to it.”
Ian Dowling has recovered from the knee injury that as kept him out up to last Thursday when he played a full 80 minutes in Munster As win over Ulster at Shawsbridge.
Elsewhere, Tony McGahan makes two changes to the back row, one enforced by the absence through injury (neck) of Alan Quinlan, with Denis Leamy on the blindside, Niall Ronan back from injury on the open and three-try scorer in the Dragons game, Nick Williams not surprisingly continuing at number 8.
Munster: K Earls; D Howlett, L Mafi, J de Villiers, D Hurley; R O’Gara capt, T O’Leary; M Horan, D Fogarty, J Hayes; D O’Callaghan, M O’Driscoll; D Leamy, N Ronan, N Williams. Replacements: J Flannery, T Buckley, P O’Connell, D Wallace, P Warwick, P Stringer, I Dowling.