After four months sitting on the sidelines recovering from elbow surgery, the 100-cap All Black, who is named in the starting XV at fullback, says he is ready and rearing to go.
“I think I have come through the last couple of weeks in good stead. There comes a time when you think ‘I can’t wait to get back out there’ and I am just really excited now,” he says.
Muliaina also says he must now practice what he has been preaching to Connacht’s young backline as part of his mentoring role since his arrival.
The 2011 All Black World Cup winner says the excitement at his return to action has been building over the last two weeks.
“The closer and closer it has got, it has become more exciting. It’s about getting that feeling back, that excitement to play. “
Muliaina will be joined fellow Kiwis Bundi Aki, who partners Dave McSharry in the centre in the absence of Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw, while latest arrival, hooker Tom McCartney, is named on the bench.
In seven changes from the side that lost to Ospreys in the last round, out-half Miah Nikora makes his first start, partnering scrum-half Ian Porter. Up front Ronan Loughney moves to tighthead in the absence of the injured Nathan White and Rodney Ah You, who is on the Ireland bench; and in the backrow Willie Faloon returns.
M Muliaina, D Poolman, B Aki, D McSharry, M Healy, M Nikora, I Porter, D Buckley, J Harris-Wright, R Loughney, M Kearney, Q Roux, J Muldoon (cpt), W Faloon, G Naoupu.
Replacements: D Heffernan, T McCartney, F Bealham, A Browne, E McKeon, J Cooney, J Carty, D Leader.
H Daniller, D Odiete, G Bisegni, M Pratichetti, M Visentin, E Padovani, B Leonard, A De Marchi, O Fabiani, L Redolfini, A Ferreira, V Bernabo, M Bergamasco (cpt), F Cristiano, A Van Schalkwyk.
Replacements: R Santamaria, A Lovotti, L Leibson, J Sarto, B Steyn, A Chillon, S Berryman, M Bergamasco.