Munster coach Tony McGahan has made just one change in personnel, from the side that started the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final against Brive, for tomorrow afternoon’s semi-final match against Harlequins at Thomond Park Stadium, kick-off 1pm.
That sole change comes in the backline where Paul Warwick partners Lifeimi Mafi in the centre, with Sam Tuitupou, named on a bench.
Surprisingly, Paul O'Connell has been named among the replacements despite not being named in the extended squad announced last Wednesday as McGahan waited to see how the squad captain came through what was only his second full contact session since picking up the ankle injury against Leinster a month ago.
As it transpired, O'Connell showed no ill effects from his exertions and is included on a strong looking bench alongside Marcus Horan, John Hayes and Peter Stringer who between them have more than 600 Munster caps.
Commenting on the O'Connell decision, McGahan said: "We thought it prudent to omit Paul from the original squad until we saw how he came through what was only his second serious workout (yesterday) since sustaining the injury. He reported no ill effects today so we're delighted to be able to name him in the squad.”
Earlier reports had suggested that O’Connell was set to miss the rest of the season after injuring his ankle in Munster’s 24-23 win over Leinster on Saturday April 2, but has shown tremendous resilience to make it back to competitive action ahead of schedule.
Coach McGahan praised his backroom team and O’Connell himself for their efforts: “I think the Munster medical and fitness staff deserve huge credit for having him back in the match day squad at this stage. But it also demonstrates Paul's professionalism, dedication to his sport and commitment to Munster."
Munster: F Jones; D Howlett, L Mafi, P Warwick, K Earls; R O'Gara capt, C Murray; W du Preez, D Varley, T Buckley; D O'Callaghan, M O'Driscoll; D Leamy, D Wallace, J Coughlan.
Replacements: M Sherry, M Horan, J Hayes, P O'Connell, D Ryan, P Stringer, S Tuitupou, J Murphy.