O'Connell has made a full recovery from a back injury that required an operation earlier in the year and he is looking forward to his first competitive game since he played with Ireland against New Zealand in Dunedin last June. "I played in the warm-up game against Leinster last Friday and came through that fine. I only played for the first 40 minutes but there were no problems whatsoever. I'm really looking forward to Friday and getting back into the the swing of things."
O'Connell is looking no further than Friday's game and thoughts of a return to the national squad are quickly dismissed, "The important thing for me is to get my place back on the Munster team first. I have an opportunity to do that on Friday and the only thing on my mind now is helping Munster get to the next stage of the competition.
After that there's the Heineken Cup. There's a lot of competition for places in the Munster pack so I'll just concentrate on Friday's game and the job I have to do.". With O'Connell returning to the pack as partner for Donncha O'Callaghan, it means that Mick O'Driscoll drops to the bench although coach Alan Gaffney has yet to finalise the replacements.
There is also a first start of the season for Colm McMahon but in the unfamilair position of right wing. McMahon's versatility now comes in handy as regular wingers, Anthony Horgan, John O'Neill and John Kelly are all ruled out through injury. Killian Keane, is named at full back with injury ruling out both Dominic Crotty and Jeremy Staunton.
Munster Team to Face Connacht:
Killian Keane, Colm McMahon, Mike Mullins, Jason Holland, Mossie Lawler, Ronan O'Gara, Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Frank Sheahan, John Hayes; Paul O'Connell, Donncha O'Callaghan, Jim Williams, Alan Quinlan, Anthony Foley.
Replacements to follow:
M. McHugh; G. Duffy; D. Yapp; S. Moore (capt.); T. Robinson; E. Elwood; C. Keane; R. McCormack; M. Uijs; P. Bracken; D. Browne; R. Frost; P. Neville; J. O Sullivan; J. O Connor.
Replacements: F. Boiroux; J. Flannery; M. Swift; E. Peters; E. Reddan; J. Norton; W. Munn.
Munster v Connacht - Celtic League Quarter Final
Kick-off: Friday, November 29th, 19:30 (GMT) Venue: Musgrave Park, Cork, Ireland.