All have participated hugely in Munster’s competitive season to date and coach Tony McGahan has given the trio a chance to rest. Munster will also be without the injured Frankie Sheahan, Tomas O’Leary and Rua Tipoki, but the coach can still choose from an exceptionally strong squad of 27.
Munster could, and probably will, travel to Belfast — the squad will be cut tomorrow — with as many as 13 players included in Declan Kidney’s Irish squad for the autumn internationals, even allowing for the absence of O’Connell, Hayes and O’Leary.
It seems likely that Mick O’Driscoll will assume the captaincy in O’Connell’s absence and that Paul Warwick will start at out-half, with Ronan O’Gara on the bench.
McGahan is almost certain to include all the remaining heavy-hitters in the final list of 22.
Ulster coach Matt Williams will choose from a squad of 26 players but it is one that doesn’t include the captain Rory Best, who is rested in advance of the forthcoming internationals.
Williams has named 14 forwards including Stephen Ferris, who has recovered from the injury he picked up against French side Stade Français.
Ferris is one of five players who were yesterday chosen to join the national squad for training in advance of the three autumn internationals. Williams has resisted the temptation to rest any of that group, so Ferris, Andrew Trimble, Paddy Wallace, Ryan Caldwell and Tom Court will all be considered for selection.
Thomas Anderson and Stuart Philpott, Paul Steinmetz and Mark McCrea are also named in the extended squad and all will be keen to get a chance to play against the current league leaders.
MUNSTER (from): Forwards: M. Horan, F. Pucciariello, J. Flannery, D. Fogarty, T. Buckley, D. Hurley, M. O’Driscoll, D. Ryan, D. O’Callaghan, M. Melbourne, A. Quinlan, D. Wallace, J. O’Sullivan, J. Melck, J. Coughlan
Backs: D. Hurley, A. Horgan, K. Lewis, K. Earls, B. Murphy, L. Mafi, I. Dowling, J. Manning, R. O’Gara, P. Warwick, P. Stringer, M. Prendergast.
ULSTER (from): Forwards: J Fitzpatrick; N Brady, T Court, B Botha, C Del Fava, E O’Donoghue, R Caldwell, M McCullough, K Dawson, R Diack, S Ferris, D Pollock, S Philpott, T Anderson.
Backs: N O’Connor; B Cunningham, T Nagusa, D Cave, A Trimble, R Dewey, C Willis, I Boss, P Steinmetz, I Humphreys, M McCrea, P Wallace.