Coach Eddie O'Sullivan was forced into a re-shuffle of his back division after the Leinster player failed a fitness test on a groin strain he first felt in his side's Heineken Cup clash with Bristol last month.
Leicester utility back Geordan Murphy, pencilled in to replace injured winger Shane Horgan, will move to full-back - and Munster's John Kelly will win his eighth cap on the right flank.
"He just didn't make it, but we hope he'll be all right for the French game," said Ireland team manager Brian O'Brien.
Ireland team to play Italy in Rome:
Backs: G Murphy (Leicester); J Kelly (Munster), B O'Driscoll (Leinster, capt), K Maggs (Bath), D Hickie (Leinster); D Humphries (Ulster), P Stringer (Munster).
Forwards: R Corrigan (Leinster), S Byrne (Leinster), J Hayes (Munster), G Longwell (Ulster), M O'Kelly (Leinster), V Costello (Leinster), K Gleeson (Leinster), A Foley (Munster).
Replacements: F Sheahan (Munster), M Horan (Munster), L Cullen (Leinster), A Quinlan (Munster), G Easterby (Llanelli), P Burke (Harlequins), R Henderson (Munster).