JOHNNY Sexton will take his place in the line-up to face Italy in Saturday’s crucial tie, after recovering from a thumb injury.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt announced this afternoon that the fly-half will feature in the back-line that started against both Wales and England, after recovering from the injury he picked up in Ireland's defeat at Twickenham.
He also confirmed that there would only be one change to the team that lost to England two weeks ago, for the clash with Italy at the Aviva Stadium.
Iain Henderson will make his first Six Nations start in the place of Munster captain Peter O'Mahony, who is sidelined with a hamstring strain he sustained in the London fixture.
Schmidt said of O’Mahony’s fitness: “I think if this was the last game of the Six Nations we might have risked it.
“If he had trained fully today, we would have included him probably but we decided that caution was required.
“I’m really confident about Paris next week.”
Henderson will form a back row partnership with his Ulster colleague Chris Henry and Ireland vice-captain Jamie Heaslip.
Schmidt added of Henderson’s inclusion in the squad: “Iain’s a guy who played in the equivalent fixture last year, good experience he’s a good athlete and made an impact off the bench against England.”
Paul O'Connell will lead the side and features in an unchanged front five alongside Devin Toner, Cian Healy, Rory Best and Mike Ross.
History will be made this weekend when Brian O'Driscoll becomes the most-capped player in Test rugby history, when he makes his 140th Test appearance (including his eight Lions outings).
He will break former Australia scrum-half George Gregan's record of 139 caps, already having surpassed Ronan O'Gara's previous Ireland record of 128.
There are two changes on the bench with Rhys Ruddock replacing the starting Henderson and Eoin Reddan coming in for Isaac Boss who is rested this week.
Tommy Bowe also trained with the squad today and could come into contention for the final game against France.
“If we got into trouble before next week it was good to get Tommy back involved,” he added.
Ireland Team & Replacements
15. Rob Kearney
14. Andrew Trimble
13. Brian O'Driscoll
12. Gordon D'Arcy
11. Dave Kearney
10. Jonathan Sexton
9. Conor Murray
1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best
3. Mike Ross
4. Devin Toner
5. Paul O'Connell
6. Iain Henderson
7. Chris Henry
8. Jamie Heaslip
16. Sean Cronin
17. Jack McGrath
18. Martin Moore
19. Rhys Ruddock
20. Jordi Murphy
21. Eoin Reddan
22. Paddy Jackson
23. Fergus McFadden
Ireland v Italy Aviva Stadium, Saturday 8 March, kick-off 2.30pm