Six Nations 2013: Brian O'Driscoll set for swansong against Italy
Ireland announce team for Saturday's match in Rome
Thursday 14 March 2013
Brian O'Driscoll will play potentially his final RBS 6 Nations match after being included in Ireland's starting XV for their clash with Italy at the Stadio Olimpico.
O'Driscoll, along with centre partner Luke Marshall, was concussed during last weekend's 13-13 draw with France, but both players have been passed fit for the trip to Rome on Saturday.
They are joined in the backline by Jonathan Sexton, who is restored at fly-half having missed the last two matches against Scotland and France with a hamstring problem.
However, there is a slight doubt over Sexton's fitness and the Lions contender is being examined for a minor injury, according to head coach Declan Kidney.
"Jonny turned over on his foot a little bit this morning, but we expect that he'll be fine. He's being checked out now. Ian Madigan will travel with us as cover," Kidney said.
"Jonny's very keen to get going now and is very happy to be involved."
Paddy Jackson, who deputised in Sexton's absence, drops to the bench with Madigan losing his place among the replacements - unless Sexton fails to recover.
Craig Gilroy returns on the right wing after overcoming a groin strain, replacing rib-fracture victim Fergus McFadden.
The pack is unchanged from the eight that started against France with lock Donnacha Ryan being given a clean bill of health after taking a bang on his shoulder at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
Substitute scrum-half Eoin Reddan fractured his leg against France, so uncapped Ulsterman Paul Marshall wins a spot on the bench that includes Devin Toner.
Kidney explained that Toner's line-out prowess earned him the nod over Donncha O'Callaghan as second row cover.
Ireland have never lost to Italy in the Six Nations with their last defeat to the Azzurri coming in 1997.
Victory in Rome, combined with France dispatching Scotland in Paris, would secure a third-place finish - a reasonable return given the number of injuries they have endured in the championship.
But defeat, also combined with a French win, would thrust them into contention for the wooden spoon.
Ireland team to face Italy at the Stadio Olimpico, Rome, on Saturday March 16:
R Kearney (Leinster); C Gilroy (Ulster), B O'Driscoll (Leinster), L Marshall (Ulster), K Earls (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), M McCarthy (Connacht), D Ryan (Munster), P O'Mahony (Munster), S O'Brien (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster, capt).
Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), S Archer (Munster), D Toner (Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), P Marshall (Ulster), P Jackson (Ulster), L Fitzgerald (Leinster).
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