IRISH internationals Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony return to Munster’s starting line-up for this Friday night’s glamour RaboDirect PRO12 fixture with Ulster at Ravenhill (7.05pm).
The inclusion of second-row O’Connell and captain O’Mahony are just two of 12 changes in personnel head coach Rob Penney makes to his starting team from the side which defeated Connacht at Thomond Park a week ago.
Ronan O’Mahony, Donncha O’Callaghan and James Coughlan are the starting trio that survive for the current PRO12 table toppers from last weekend’s win over Pat Lam’s Connacht side. O’Mahony’s inclusion is reward for and excellent display over the Westerners.
Keith Earls misses out this week with a bruised shoulder and there is no place in the squad for the in-form JJ Hanrahan due to a tight groin. Both Earls and Hanrahan are expected to train next week ahead of Munster’s Heineken Cup Round 5 clash with Gloucester at Kingsholm on Saturday, January 11.
Damien Varley returns from his bout off illness to start in the front row against Ulster, with Dave Kilcoyne and Stephen Archer packing down on either side of the Garryowen clubman.
Tommy O’Donnell joins O’Connell and O’Mahony in returning to the pack while there is a change in half-backs this week with Cathal Sheridan and Ian Keatley starting.
The Munster backline sees Felix Jones at fullback with Andrew Conway, Ivan Dineen and Casey Laulala joining Ronan O’Mahony.
James Cronin received the all clear from the scan of his lower back but will not be involved this weekend.
Rabo Direct PRO12 leaders Munster have won only once at Ravenhill since 2007 - a 16-6 win in October 2010 - with Ulster losing just one home game in the last 11 months.
The sides had contrasting fortunes in their respective Irish derbies last week as Munster overcame Connacht 22-16 for their ninth win in a row with Ulster falling to a disappointing 19-6 loss to Leinster at the RDS.
Friday night’s game from Ravenhill will be televised live on RTE2.
That defeat ended the side’s five-game winning run but if they can overcome Munster, Mark Anscombe’s side will move back into the top four.
MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Andrew Conway, Casey Laulala, Ivan Dineen, Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley, Cathal Sheridan; Dave Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, Stephen Archer; Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell; Peter O’Mahony Capt., Tommy O’Donnell, James Coughlan. Replacements: Duncan Casey, John Ryan, BJ Botha, Dave Foley, CJ Stander, Duncan Williams, Johnny Holland, Johne Murphy.