Elsewhere in the pack, Dave Kilcoyne retains the number 1 jersey in the absence of Wian du Preez who sustained a knee injury against Leinster and Donnacha Ryan's experience was a probable factor in him getting the blind-side berth ahead of Dave O'Callaghan who is named on the bench.
Speaking of O'Connell's inclusion coach Rob Penney felt it prudent to wait until O'Connell had 'reported in' today following the session yesterday before making a decision about his participation or not. " We've always maintained that he'd be back when he felt he was ready. I think it's great for us. It's great for Irish rugby, for the rugby community to see a player of his calibre back playing again. It was a gradual process. In the interests of the player it had to be."
The one unforced change in the backline sees Ian Keatley in at full-back instead of Denis Hurley who is named on the bench.
Munster (v Racing Metro): Ian Keatley; Doug Howlett capt, 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.