If Connacht needed a boost following their humbling defeat to the Dragons, the return of Bundee Aki for this Saturday's trip to face Munster at Thomond Park should certainly do the trick.

The Ireland international has been back in training in recent weeks, having been given extra time off following his tour with the British and Irish Lions this summer.

And while the province's 'Tom-Tom' centre partnership of Daly and Farrell have excelled in the early stages of the season, a shoulder injury for the latter means Aki is likely to be jettisoned straight into the starting team for the trip to Limerick (live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player).

"It's enormously important, particularly in a derby game," says senior coach Pete Wilkins.

"I think for him, obviously the physical confrontation he brings on both sides of the ball, as a defender and as a ball carrier, even the 1% efforts, cleaning a player out from the ruck and working back off the ground, he has this enormous intent and energy that comes with everything he does.

"As well as that being important in terms of making dents in the opposition, it lifts his team-mates around him and it lifts the entire changing room.

"As a barometer for us, it's great."

The 31-year-old was clearly well liked by Lions head coach Warren Gatland, featuring in the first five games of the tour, before returning to the side in the starting team for the third and decisive Test match.

"But it's also really humbling for us to feel that he's very much flying the flag for everyone involved here that has been part of his development and part of his successes."

Aki's selection for the tour was also notable as he became the province's first professional-era Lion, ending a 37-year gap between Ciaran Fitzgerald's inclusion on the 1983 tour of New Zealand.

Wilkins says the player's selection for Lions duty this summer brought a heightened sense of pride to those associated with Connacht rugby.

"He's come back proud of what he's achieved, both from a personal level but also in terms of representing Connacht and representing the fact that he's done it on the back of his form for our province and for Ireland, and I think that's tremendously important to him.

"But it's also really humbling for us to feel that he's very much flying the flag for everyone involved here that has been part of his development and part of his successes.

"So that's a really nice aspect for him, he's got that personal achievement but also the group identity, and that's the tribal achievement, as it was, from our perspective.

"But he's come back very level-headed and he's got both feet on the ground. He's worked incredibly hard to get his body right after what was a really bruising campaign over there, and on the back of the season he had," Wilkins said.

Connacht beat Munster on their last trip to Thomond Park

However, Aki's presence alone won't be enough for Connacht to beat a Munster team who will be buzzing after their 100% start.

Johann van Graan's side will also be well rested, having given a number of their key players the weekend off in round three's bonus-point win against the Scarlets.

Indeed across the three games, Munster have given game time to 36 players in comparison to Connacht's 27.

Games between the sides have often been decided by small moments of brilliance or mistakes in the last couple of seasons, with outhalf Jack Carty pointing out Mike Haley's match-winning try for Munster in this fixture last March, or Connacht's failure to execute a simple overlap in their game at the Sportsground in January.

Connacht were also victorious on their last trip to Limerick, a 24-20 triumph in the Rainbow Cup last May.

"I don't think we fear going anywhere, since I've been here we've won there maybe three times and a lot of the games we won have been built on quite similar principles in terms of intensity and work-rate," Carty said.

"It's going to come down to one or two scores, it's about staying in the fight the full game and then those pivotal moments that we don't kind of switch off whether that's discipline or going away from what we do."

Follow Munster v Connacht (Saturday 7.35pm) via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport or the RTÉ News app, or watch live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player. Watch Ulster v Lions (Friday 7.35pm) on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.