Former All-Ireland winning captain Michael Rice will return to the Kilkenny team for the first time since sustaining a serious hand injury against Tipperary last August when the Cats take on Clare this Sunday in the Allianz Hurling League Division 1A.
Rice needed an operation after breaking several bones in his hand in a clash with Tipperary’s Padraic Maher during the Cats’ All-Ireland semi-final win.
The incident drew the ire of Kilkenny management and officials at the time, and meant Rice missed out on the All-Ireland final and replay against Galway.
The Carrickshock man returns at right-half-forward for the crucial Allianz Division 1A game against Clare in Ennis on Sunday.
His inclusion is one of a host of personnel and positional switches from the Kilkenny side that started their win against Waterford last Monday.
Paddy Hogan switches from midfield to right-corner-back, and is joined in the left corner by Conor Fogarty who replaces the injured Jackie Tyrell. Michael Fennelly, also returning from injury, replaces Hogan in midfield.
Richie Power, who was a late withdrawal due to flu prior to the Waterford game, is named at centre-forward.
Ger Aylward, who impressed against Waterford, switches to right-corner-forward, and is joined in a dangerous looking full-forward line by Aidan Fogarty and Richie Hogan.
Walter Walsh, man-of-the-match in last year’s All-Ireland final replay win over Galway, also returns to the matchday squad following injury, but will have to content himself with a place on the bench.
Manager Brian Cody will welcome the return of Rice, Fennelly and Walsh to a team that has been beset by injuries this season.
Kilkenny XV to face Clare in the Allianz Hurling League Division 1A:
1 Eoin Murphy 2 Paddy Hogan 3 JJ Delaney 4 Conor Fogarty 5 Tommy Walsh 6 Brian Hogan 7 Kieran Joyce 8 Lester Ryan 9 Michael Fennelly 10 Michael Rice 11 Richie Power 12 Eoin Larkin 13 Ger Aylward 14 Richie Hogan 15 Aidan Fogarty.