Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Cathal Noonan/INPHO O'Connell watches Munster training on Tuesday afternoon.
# Team news
O'Connell returns to Munster team as Earls starts on wing
Head coach Rob Penney has named a strong match day squad to face Treviso in the Pro12.

IRELAND CAPTAIN PAUL O’Connell has been named in Munster’s starting team to face Treviso in the RaboDirect Pro12 tomorrow night at Thomond Park [KO 7.15pm].

The 34-year-old has opted against taking a rest weekend after helping his Irish team to their Six Nations triumph in Paris last Saturday, instead partnering Billy Holland in the second row.

Head coach Rob Penney claims it is a mark of the man that O’Connell has asked to play.

“Paul wanted to be involved this weekend to keep building off the momentum of his successful Six Nations campaign with the Irish team.

“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.”

Keith Earls also makes a welcome return to Penney’s team, having missed the Six Nations with a knee injury. The right wing last played for his province in January’s Heineken Cup victory over Edinburgh in Limerick.

Damien Varley is another to make his first Munster start since January, captaining the side from hooker in a front row that also includes James Cronin and John Ryan.

Sean Dougall and Paddy Butler are named in the back row, with Ireland international Donnacha Ryan lining up at blindside flanker. His energy should be impressive after he too missed out on Six Nations involvement.

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In the backs, JJ Hanrahan joins the powerful Duncan Williams in the playmaking positions, while James Downey and Casey Laulala are picked in midfield. Joining Earls in the back three are Johne Murphy and Felix Jones.

A strong bench includes recent Kiwi signing Quentin MacDonald, with the hooker expected to make his debut in the second half. Alongside the 25-year-old, Simon Zebo, CJ Stander and Ian Keatley will look to impact the game in the closing stages.

Munster: Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Johne Murphy; JJ Hanrahan, Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Damien Varley (Capt.), John Ryan; Billy Holland, Paul O’Connell; Donnacha Ryan, Sean Dougall, Paddy Butler.

Replacements: Quentin MacDonald, Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Donncha O’Callaghan, CJ Stander, Gerry Hurley, Ian Keatley, Simon Zebo.

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