Kelly will earn his 138th cap for Munster and is set to captain the side for the first time in a representative fixture.
He led the team in last Friday’s friendly against Leicester and was proud of the performance, even though they lost 26-18.
“It was an encouraging display from a team that contained a number of new players,” said Kelly. “It takes time for guys to get used to the systems, defensive and attacking.”
“I think some of the young guys surprised a lot of people, but there is a lot of talent in the province, and as long as new players are coming through, then nobody should complain.
“I think the fans were happy with what they saw last week. Sure, we conceded a couple of soft tries, but that was down to inexperience,” he said.
Thirteen of Munster’s top players are unavailable due to international preparation but Kelly, who was kept out of Ireland’s tour to New Zealand and Australia this summer through injury, has been released to play with the province and is relishing the opportunity of taking on Cardiff.
“It’s going to be a tough game, much tougher than a pre-season friendly,” he said. “This is where the competition begins and we have got to be ready for it.
“It’s a big challenge for the new guys on the block, but I think we saw last year that new guys can make a huge impact — you’ve only got to look at the contribution made by Barry Murphy and Ian Dowling to our successful season.
“In the context of the Celtic League, you would always want to have your best team out if possible. But it’s not always possible, so we have to use it sometimes to bring on the younger players. The more young guys we bring on, the better.”
R Williams, C Czekaj, J Robinson, M Stcherbina, M Luveitasau, N Robinson, M Phillips, G Jenkins, T Rhys-Thomas, T Filise, D Jones, R Sidoli, S Morgan, M Williams, X Rush (C)
Replacements. J Yapp, G Williams, B Davies, R Sowden-Taylor, W Evans, N Macleod, T Shanklin
C. Cullen, S. Payne, J. Kelly (captain), J. Downey, I. Dowling, J. Manning, T. O’Leary, D. Hurley, F. Sheahan, F. Pucciariello, D. Ryan, C. Wyatt, R. Noonan, J. Coughlan, J. O’Sullivan.
Replacements. S. Cronin, T. Ryan, S. O’Connor, B. Cutriss, J. Hurley, E. Hickey, M. Lawlor.