Joe Schmidt makes two changes for trip to Italy

Joe Schmidt makes two changes for trip to Italy

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt has made two changes to his starting XV for Saturday’s trip to the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

Ireland head to Italy in need of a strong performance to get their Six Nations campaign back on track after their opening day defeat to Scotland.

Ireland have refused to gamble Johnny Sexton's fitness on Saturday's encounter.

Sexton missed the 27-22 loss in Scotland with calf trouble and was only ever handed an outside chance of facing Italy, so head coach Schmidt has again turned to Paddy Jackson to run his backline.

Sexton has not played since Leinster's 24-24 draw at Castres on January 20, but the backrrom team still expect the 31-year-old to be ready to face France in Dublin on February 25.

The fit-again Donnacha Ryan replaces Iain Henderson at lock after Ireland missed the Munster man's wily tight work in Edinburgh.

Ryan and Cian Healy slot in to start in the only changes from the galling Scotland defeat, with Schmidt challenging the bulk of those players to provide immediate atonement.

Connacht's Ultan Dillane is preferred to Henderson as the lock cover on the bench, with Ulster wing Craig Gilroy also named among the replacements. Andrew Trimble is unavailable through injury.

Ireland team: Rob Kearney, Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Simon Zebo, Paddy Jackson, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong, Donnacha Ryan, Devin Toner, CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Jack McGrath, John Ryan, Ultan Dillane, Josh van der Flier, Kieran Marmion, Ian Keatley, Craig Gilroy

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