Ireland unchanged

Ireland have named an unchanged team for Saturday's 6 Nations tie with Italy. [more]

Ireland unchanged

Ireland have named an unchanged team for Saturday’s 6 Nations tie with Italy.

Head coach Declan Kidney has stuck with the same side that were due to play France a week-and-a-half ago.

That highly-anticipated clash in Paris was called off just moments before kick off due to the freezing weather conditions so it comes as no surprise that Kidney has opted against making any alterations.

Jonathan Sexton has fought off a thigh injury to keep the No10 shirt ahead of Lions veteran Ronan O’Gara, while 2009 Lions captain Paul O’Connell continues to captain the side in the absence of the injured Brian O’Driscoll.

Keith Earls is retained in place of O’Driscoll at outside centre and is in line for his first appearance of the championship having missed the defeat to Wales after his baby daughter was taken ill.

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Earls, who is one of eight Lions in the starting XV, holds off competition from Fergus McFadden despite the Leinsterman starring in his province’s narrow win over the Scarlets last weekend.

The bench is also exactly the same as was named for the Stade de France encounter with the French, with Munster back rower Peter O’Mahony set to make his debut at some stage in Dublin.

"We were tempted to make changes to the team, we had a long discussion about it," said Kidney.

"But this team was good enough to play France so it's good enough to play against Italy as well.

"We need to approach this game by game, rather than as a block of four fixtures, and that's what we're doing."

Ireland face a daunting few weeks following the postponement of their game against the French.
Kidney’s men will play four games in a row over the next four weeks, with the re-arranged French fixture scheduled for a usual rest week on Sunday, March 4.

Their home match against Italy is followed by a second trip to Paris before they face just a six-day turnaround for their match with Scotland at the Aviva Stadium.

Ireland then conclude their campaign with a away game against England at Twickenham on Saturday, March 17 when they hope they will still be in the running for the championship crown despite the opening-round reverse to the Welsh.

Ireland (v Italy, Aviva Stadium, Saturday, 1.30pm)

15 Rob Kearney (Leinster)
14 Tommy Bowe (Ospreys)
13 Keith Earls (Munster)
12 Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster)

11 Andrew Trimble (Ulster)
10 Jonathan Sexton (Leinster)
9 Conor Murray (Munster)

1 Cian Healy (Leinster)
2 Rory Best (Ulster)
3 Mike Ross (Leinster)
4 Donncha O'Callaghan (Munster)
5 Paul O'Connell (Munster, captain)
6 Stephen Ferris (Ulster)

7 Sean O'Brien (Leinster)
8 Jamie Heaslip (Leinster)


16 Sean Cronin (Leinster)
17 Tom Court (Ulster)
18 Donnacha Ryan (Munster)
19 Peter O'Mahony (Munster)
20 Eoin Reddan (Leinster)
21 Ronan O'Gara (Munster)
22 Fergus McFadden (Leinster)

NB Bold denotes Lion

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