O’Connell to start against Connacht
Former Lions skipper to make first appearance since October, Ulster name side to face Edinburgh
Paul O'Connell during Munster training earlier this week. Photograph: Lorraine O'Sullivan/Inpho
Rabo Pro12 team news: As expected, Paul O’Connell will make his first start for Munster since last October when Rob Penney's side take on Connacht in Musgrave Park on Saturday evening.
The former British and Irish Lions skipper lined out for Munster A last week and followed that up with 80 minutes for Young Munster at the weekend. Having suffered no ill effects from either game, he is named in the second row for the match in Cork.
O'Connell, who underwent surgery on a back injury on New Year's Eve, returns to a side featuring three changes from that which drew with the Ospreys.
Billy Holland makes way for O’Connell with Donncha O’Callaghan and Sean Dougall also coming into the starting XV.
Ulster coach Mark Anscombe, meanwhile, will be without Ireland backrow Iain Henderson when the Pro12 leaders take on Edinburgh at Murrayfield on Friday night but his loss is offset by the return of skipper Johann Muller.
Muller is selected for the first time since February and he is joined in the secondrow by Lewis Stevenson. Dan Tuohy has been named in the backrow alongside Mike McComish and Robbie Diack, who have been retained from the team which drew with Treviso, with John Afoa switching back to his regular tighthead prop position.
Jared Payne will line up at fullback for the first time since the beginning of January and is joined in the back three by Andrew Trimble and Michael Allen.
Paul Marshall is another returning player and he will be partnered at half back by fellow Irish cap Paddy Jackson. Stuart Olding, who has scored twice in his last two games for the province, will again combine with Darren Cave in midfield. Nick Williams has also returned from injury and is in the replacements.
Munster: F Jones; D Howlett, C Laulala, J Downey, D Hurley; R O’Gara, C Sheridan; D Kilcoyne,D Varley, S Archer; Donncha O’Callaghan, P O’Connell; T O’Donnell, S Dougall, J Coughlan. Replacements: M Sherry, W du Preez, BJ Botha, B Holland, N Ronan, D Williams, I Keatley, I Dineen.
Ulster: J Payne, A Trimble, D Cave, S Olding, M Allen, P Jackson, P Marshall; T Court, R Herring, J Afoa, J Muller, L Stevenson, D Tuohy, M McComish, R Diack. Replacements: N Annett, C Black, R Lutton, N Williams, A Birch, M Heaney, R Andrew, P Nelson.