Paul O’Connell’s bid for a third British & Irish Lions tour will begin at Stade de France on Saturday after the Irish giant was named in the Munster side to face Racing Metro in the opening round of the Heineken Cup.
The 2009 Lions captain will pack down with Billy Holland in the Munster second row for what will be his first game since May 5. He will be making his 65th Heineken Cup appearance.
"We've always maintained that Paul would be back when he felt he was ready. I think it's great for us,” said Munster coach Rob Penney.
“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 but, in the interests of the player, it had to be."
The man who led the Lions in South Africa three years ago has been out of action since injuring a knee in the PRO12 clash with Ulster towards the end of last season and was forced to sit out the play-off semi-final against the Ospreys, as well as Ireland’s summer tour of New Zealand.
He has also missed the first six games of the new campaign, including last week’s defeat to Leinster at the Aviva Stadium.
His 2005 and 2009 Lions team mate, Donncha O'Callaghan, failed a fitness test on Thursday and will sit out this weekend. So, too, will another of Munster’s 2009 Lions contingent, Keith Earls. He is likely to be sidelined for three weeks with a thigh strain.
Ronan O’Gara will extend his Heineken Cup cap record to 105 when he steps onto the pitch in Paris and needs only two points to raise his record tally to 1,300.