DECLAN KIDNEY IS sticking with the starting XV which he intended to field against France to do the job when Ireland host Italy this Saturday afternoon.
As expected, Keith Earls will make his first start in this year’s tournament alongside Gordon D’Arcy in midfield, while Jonny Sexton’s insistence that he has returned to full fitness sees him preferred again to Ronan O’Gara at out-half.
Sexton had an injury scare when he complained of muscle tightness in the run-up to the abandoned match in the Stade de France, but said yesterday that it was a “slight niggle” and nothing more.
Fergus McFadden, who scored all of Leinster’s points in a narrow 16-13 win against the Scarlets last Friday, is named among the replacements, as is the uncapped Peter O’Mahony.
The pack remains unchanged, with Paul O’Connell again set to captain the side from the second row.
The decision to name the same side as the abandoned France game was far from a reflex action, Kidney said at this afternoon’s team announcement.
We had a good long discussion about it and we just made sure that in our own heads we were treating this game by game and not looking at it as a block of anything.
We took a look at all the different permutations but we said to the players that we just need to treat this game by game and that’s what we’re doing.
Ireland (v Italy): Kearney; Bowe, Earls, D’Arcy, Trimble; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best, Ross; O’Callaghan, O’Connell (c); Ferris, O’Brien, Heaslip. Replacements: Cronin, Court, Ryan, O’Mahony, Reddan, O’Gara, McFadden.