Murphy, who last played competitive rugby in June during Ireland’s tour to Argentina, has recovered from a shoulder injury while Kearney has overcome the knee problem which sidelined him since the PRO12 play-off win over Ulster in May. Kearney will be stationed on the left wing with Darragh Fanning on the right while Luke Fitzgerald is at outside centre. Inside Fitzgerald will be Noel Reid, while Luke McGrath and Jimmy Gopperth have been retained at halfback. Zane Kirchner continues at full-back.
Richardt Strauss starts at hooker having been a try scorer for Ireland in last weekend’s Guinness Series win over Georgia, while Michael Bent and Tadhg Furlong start at loose head and tight head.
Tom Denton and Kane Douglas are selected in the second row, while in the back row Kevin McLaughlin once again captains the side with Jordi Murphy at openside flanker and Jack Conan selected at No.8.
Among the replacements is Jamie Hagan who arrived during the week on a short term loan deal from London Irish.
Coach Matt O’Connor sees the flip side to having to plan without his international stars. He explained: “The guys are really excited about getting an opportunity to play in the test windows. For a lot of the group, it is an opportunity to play some rugby and stick their hands up for selection.”
However, centre Noel Reid has warned against any complacency in Italy: “I’ve played there a few times now. They’ve all been pretty tough games. You never get an easy game over there. We won by a point last year and after starting really well we left them back in.
“They’re pretty good when they get a bit of momentum going. They’ve got a lot of big lads in their team and we could be coming up against Leo (Auva’a) again.”
It will be an emotional occasion for the hosts with Ludovico Nitoglia earning his 100th cap. He will enter the pitch before his teammates and alongside Corniel Van Zyl, who made his 150th appearance for the club in the last game in Glasgow.
J Hayward, A Pratichetti, E Bacchin, S Christie, L Nitoglia, J Carlisle, A Lucchese, M Zanusso, D Giazzon, R Harden, T Vallejos, C Van Zyl (c), M Barbini, D Budd, M Luamanu.
Replacements: A Kudin, J Novak, R Acosta, M Fuser, M Swanepoel, L Auva’a, R Trevisan, J Ambrosini.
Z Kirchner, D Fanning, L Fitzgerald, N Reid, D Kearney, J Gopperth, L McGrath; M Bent, R Strauss, T Furlong, T Denton, K Douglas, K McLaughlin (c), J Murphy, J Conan.
Replacements: B Byrne, P Dooley, J Hagan, B Marshall, D Ryan, I Boss, C Marsh, B Macken.