TOMAS O’Leary returns to the Munster starting line-up for the first time since January in Friday night’s Magners League clash with Connacht at Thomond Park (7.05pm).
O’Leary was set to make a return to action a fortnight ago in the ‘A’ game in Moseley, but was forced to withdraw with a back spasm, while Alan Quinlan, whose last appearance was off the bench in the game against Scarlets, also returns.
Quinlan, who retires at the end of the season, will win his 211th Munster cap against Connacht.
Just four players who started against Harlequins last weekend retain their places; Ronan O’Gara, Felix Jones, Doug Howlett and Denis Leamy, who this time around starts at number 8.
Auckland-born, former Irish U-20 star, Danny Barnes will partner Johne Murphy in the centre, while Simon Zebo takes over from Keith Earls on the wing. Paul O’Connell returns to the starting line-up as captain after his recent spell on the sidelines due to injury. The towering Munster lock came through unscathed in his half-time outing against Harlequins in the Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final last weekend and will lead his side.
Munster: F Jones; D Howlett, J Murphy, D Barnes, S Zebo; R O’Gara, T O’Leary; M Horan, M Sherry, J Hayes; D Ryan, P O’Connell capt; A Quinlan, N Ronan, D Leamy.
Replacements: D Varley, W du Preez, S Archer, I Nagle, T O’Donnell, P Stringer, P Warwick, D Hurley.