The 30-year-old has been fast-tracked into the Test team and is the only uncapped player in Ireland's starting line-up.
Ulster's Andrew Trimble and Kieran Lewis of Leinster forge the centre partnership, while Paddy Wallace and Isaac Boss form an all-Ulster half-back pairing.
Munster hooker Jerry Flannery makes his first Ireland start since last summer's tour to New Zealand and Australia.
At lock, Leinster veteran Malcolm O'Kelly - Ireland's most capped player - returns after missing the entire RBS 6 Nations campaign with a knee injury.
Ulster prop Simon Best leads the team with his provincial team-mate and namesake Neil - a star against South Africa and Australia last autumn - is restored to the back row.
Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan has rested his entire first-choice Six Nations starting line-up for the tour, which he is using for World Cup squad development.
He said: "This tour is about allowing players to challenge for the World Cup squad and it starts this weekend in the first Test against Argentina.
"Players have to put their hands up over the next two weeks to put their case forward.
"Now that might put pressure on players but there is no more pressurised an environment then international rugby and the World Cup, so this will be a good test for them."