O’Connell returns for Munster
Ireland captain back in starting line-up for tomorrow’s match in Connacht
Paul O’Connell during Munster training during the week. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Connacht v Munster
(The Sportsground, Saturday 6pm)
Paul O’Connell is back in the Munster team for tomorrow’s short trip to Galway as Rob Penney’s seek to bounce back from last weekend’s home defeat at the hands of Glasgow.
With one eye on next week’s Heineken Cup semi-final against Toulon, Penney makes a total of nine changes to his starting line-up with O’Connell coming in alongside Donncha O’Callaghan in the second row.
Ian Keatley will start at outhalf and with Conor Murray held in reserve Duncan Williams is handed the number nine jersey. With JJ Hanrahan injured, Murray could be deployed at outhalf at some stage at the Sportsground.
Connacht coach Pat Lam has also made a number of changes, seven in total, with openside flanker Willie Faloon making his first appearance in seven months for the province.
“After a false start last week for Willie (Faloon), it’s great to have him back this week at the Sportsground,” Lam said this afternoon. “Seven is such a specialised position, and one which we’ve had to patch up this season with both Willie and Jake (Heenan) out long-term.
“It was obviously a big blow losing both Tiernan (O’Halloran) and Dave (Heffernan) to injuries during the week. Tiernan has been showing great form in the last two months but unfortunately this quad muscle tear has ruled him out for the rest of our season.
“We also had to train all week without Fionn (Carr), who’s struggling with a knee haematoma, so it’s a complete reshuffle to the back three. But what a great opportunity this is for the returning Danie (Poolman) and Matt (Healy) who have been pushing the guys hard in training.
“It doesn’t get any bigger than Munster at home. It’s always a tough game for us no matter where we play them. It’s been seven weeks since we’ve played at the Sportsground and with a huge crowd expected, it’s certainly going to be a special night.
“We can feel the buzz in training, the buzz around town. Everyone is up for it.”
Connacht: D Leader; D Poolman, R Henshaw, E Griffin, M Healy; M Nikora, K Marmion; R Loughney, J Harris-Wright, R Ah You; M Kearney, A Browne; J Muldoon, W Faloon, E McKeon. Replacements: J Dinneen, D Buckley, F Bealham, A Muldowney, C Gilsenan, F Murphy, D Parks, D McSharry
Munster: D Hurley; G van den Heever, J Murphy, J Downey, A Conway; I Keatley, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, D Varley, J Ryan; D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell; CJ Stander, S Dougall, P Butler. Replacements: Q MacDonald, A Cotter, BJ Botha, B Holland, T O’Donnell, G Hurley, C Murray, R O’Mahony.