Having lost every time he has face New Zealand legend Brad Thorn; Munster lock Donncha O’Callaghan returns to the starting line-up to face Leinster for their Rabo Direct Pro 12 meeting at Thomond Park on Friday night (lick-off Saturday 7:30pm).
Also returning to for the Red Army are fellow Irish internationals Keith Earls, Peter O’Mahony and captain for the night; Ronan O’Gara. O’Gara takes the armband from the injured Paul O’Connell. There are two further changes to the Munster line-up with Marcus Horan preferred to Wian du Preez at loosehead prop with Johne Murphy making it a total of six changes from Munster’s 20-16 win over Connacht last Saturday. Having replaced du Preez 15 minutes into the second half last week; Horan has done enough to be preferred for this weekend’s top-of-the-table clash.
Mick O’Driscoll replaces captain and talisman Paul O’Connell at lock; with fellow second row partnering acknowledging that this derby clash really sets the pulses racing: ”These games are what make the dark and dirty nights of winter training worthwhile. And they’re great occasions. There’s always that bit of a bigger buzz ahead of the Leinster game.”
There is good news of injured pair O’Connell and Conor Murray (who both sustained knee injuries during the Six Nations clash with France). Having seen a specialist in Dublin, they have both been cleared to train next week. Fellow injury victim; Donncha Ryan has trained this week and looks set to be included in the squad for the Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with Ulster at Thomond Park on 8th April. O’Connell’s and Murray’s participation in that fixture will depend on how the pair come through training next week.
Munster (squad v Leinster 31st March) F Jones; J Murphy, K Earls, L Mafi, S Zebo; R O’Gara capt, T O’Leary; M Horan, D Varley, BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan,M O’Driscoll; Dave O’Callaghan, P O’Mahony, J Coughlan. Substitutes: M Sherry, W du Preez, S Archer; B Holland, T O’Donnell, D Williams, I Keatley, D Barnes.