Heaslip misses out

Jamie Heaslip has lost his fitness battle and will sit out Ireland's Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome on Saturday.

There's good news for Sean O'Brien, however, as he makes the team and will start on the side of the scrum against the Azzurri. O'Brien made a successful comeback in the Ireland Wolfhounds defeat to England Saxons last week after five months out with a serious shoulder injury.

Paul O'Connell will captain the side in his 97th cap for his country and is partnered in the second row by Devin Toner.

Among the backs, Conor Murray and Ian Keatley will form a new halfback combination, while Robbie Henshaw will line up at inside centre alongside Jared Payne, both of whom started in the Test triumph over the Springboks in November.

Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell (c), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath.
Subs: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 James Cronin, 18 Martin Moore, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Felix Jones.

Photo: Mark Leech/Getty Images