James Crombie/INPHO Craig Casey starts at scrum-half.
# Team news
Casey and Byrne at 9 and 10 as Ireland make six changes for Italy
Bundee Aki, Iain Henderson, Rónan Kelleher, and Jack Conan also come into the side.

SCRUM-HALF CRAIG Casey will make his first Six Nations start for Ireland in Saturday’s clash with Italy at the Stadio Olimpico [KO 2.15pm Irish time, RTÉ].

The 23-year-old has been named in the halfbacks alongside Ross Byrne, who also comes in to make his first Six Nations start in the number 10 shirt with Johnny Sexton still recovering from a groin injury.

Casey replaces Munster team-mate Conor Murray in the side, with the latter moving to the bench for the trip to Rome.

Second row James Ryan will captain Ireland for the seventh time in Sexton’s absence, with head coach Andy Farrell making six changes to his starting XV for this weekend.

Connacht midfielder Bundee Aki comes into the midfield in place of Stuart McCloskey, who moves to the bench.

Ulster skipper Iain Henderson starts in the second row beside Ryan after Tadhg Beirne was ruled out for up to three months with an ankle injury, while Jack Conan comes into the back row in place of Peter O’Mahony, who is included on the Irish bench.

Rónan Kelleher is in at hooker instead of Rob Herring, who has been dealing with a head injury since being high-tackled by France prop Uini Atonio two weekends ago, while Dan Sheehan returns from a hamstring injury among the replacements.

Farrell has gone for an unchanged back three of Hugo Keenan, James Lowe, and Mack Hansen, as Garry Ringrose continues at outside centre.

Kelleher is joined by Andrew Porter and Finlay Bealham in the front row. Conan’s inclusion at number eight sees Caelan Doris move to the blindside as Josh van der Flier retains the number seven shirt.

The Irish bench includes Munster playmaker Jack Crowley, who is set for his Six Nations debut if called on in Rome, while Leinster’s in-form lock/back row Ryan Baird is also involved.

Ireland (v Italy):

  • 15. Hugo Keenan
  • 14. Mack Hansen
  • 13. Garry Ringrose
  • 12. Bundee Aki
  • 11. James Lowe
  • 10. Ross Byrne
  • 9. Craig Casey
  • 1. Andrew Porter
  • 2. Rónan Kelleher
  • 3. Finlay Bealham
  • 4. Iain Henderson
  • 5. James Ryan (captain)
  • 6. Caelan Doris
  • 7. Josh van der Flier
  • 8. Jack Conan


  • 16. Dan Sheehan
  • 17. Dave Kilcoyne
  • 18. Tom O’Toole
  • 19. Ryan Baird
  • 20. Peter O’Mahony
  • 21. Conor Murray
  • 22. Jack Crowley
  • 23. Stuart McCloskey

Referee: Mike Adamson [Scotland].

- This article was updated at 1.10pm to correct the referee from Nika Amashukeli to Mike Adamson.

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