Paul O’Connell pressed straight back into action

Keith Earls also back in the Munster starting XV after recovering from injury

Paul O’Connell will start against Treviso tomorrow night. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Paul O’Connell will start against Treviso tomorrow night. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Fri, Mar 21, 2014, 11:32

Paul O’Connell is the only starter at the Stade de France last Saturday to be made available for his province from kick-off this weekend.

The Ireland captain’s inclusion in Munster’s XV to face Treviso at Thomond Park tomorrow night is not so abnormal when his game time, since fracturing his arm in the Lions second test against Australia last June, is analysed.

O’Connell has played 80 minutes just 11 times this season covering 10 Munster - going the distance in six - and seven test matches since coming off the bench against Samoa.

In contrast, his Ireland second row partner Devin Toner has started eight tests, finishing five, and completed 12 of his 13 Leinster appearances for a total of 21 games in 2013/14.

Having featured in all six of Munster’s European outings, O’Connell has missed only one major fixture this campaign when illness forced out of the Scotland victory.

“Paul wanted to be involved this weekend to keep building off the momentum of his successful Six Nations campaign with the Irish team,” said outgoing Munster coach Rob Penney. “It shows the calibre of the player - he came to watch the team train on Tuesday and he wants to contribute against Treviso and secure more game time ahead of a crucial period.”

Conor Murray is rested and Peter O’Mahony may have exacerbated his hamstring strain against France but Munster are clearly ramping up their preparations for the Leinster match at the Aviva stadium tomorrow week and Toulouse’s visit to Limerick the following weekend.

Other overdue returns are evident with Paddy Butler, having sustained a spinal concussion playing for Shannon RFC, Keith Earls, who trained with Ireland last week, and Damien Varley, injured since September, adding quality at number eight, wing and hooker.

Varley is immediately handed the captaincy by Penney while his cover is short term Kiwi signing Quentin MacDonald.

Simon Zebo is on the bench as Felix Jones and Johne Murphy complete the back three.

Munster: F Jones; K Earls, C Laulala, J Downey, J Murphy; JJ Hanrahan, D Williams; J Cronin, D Varley (capt), J Ryan; B Holland, P O’Connell; D Ryan, S Dougall, P Butler. Replacements: Q MacDonald, D Kilcoyne, S Archer, D O’Callaghan, CJ Stander, G Hurley, I Keatley, S Zebo.

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