MUNSTER HAVE BEEN given a massive boost for this weekend’s trip to face Racing Metro in the opening game of the Heineken Cup.
Paul O’Connell came through a training session yesterday with no ill effects to a long-standing knee problem and is included in the starting line-up for the game in Paris.
It will the Irish vice-captain’s first game in the red of Munster since featuring in the Pro12 win over Ulster in May.
With Donncha O’Callaghan failing to shake off a hamstring injury, O’Connell’s partner in the second row will be Billy Holland. Donnacha Ryan is moved to the blind-side to provide some much-needed extra weight to the back row with Paddy Butler moving to the bench.
Keith Earls (ruled out yesterday with a groin strain), as expected, has been replaced in the centre by James Downey. The other change in the back-line is the inclusion of Ian Keatley in place of fullback Denis Hurley.
Keatley has replaced Ronan O’Gara for the final quarter of Munster’s two recent away defeats and many in the southern province feel his performances at out-half warranted the number 10 jersey this weekend. Penney, however, has opted to trust O’Gara’s unrivalled experience as a steady hand to guide them through a stern away test.
Munster (v Racing Metro): Ian Keatley; Doug Howlett (c), Casey Laulala, James Downey, Simon Zebo; Ronan O’Gara, Conor Murray. Dave Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, BJ Botha; Billy Holland, Paul O’Connell; Donnacha Ryan, Sean Dougall, Peter O’Mahony.
Replacements: Mick Sherry, Marcus Horan, Stephen Archer, Dave O’Callaghan, Paddy Butler, Peter Stringer, Danny Barnes, Denis Hurley.