BOD wins fitness battle for Italy clash but new injury rules Sexton out
BRIAN O'DRISCOLL has won his fitness battle but Jonathan Sexton misses out for Ireland to face Italy at the Stadio Olimpico, Rome, on Saturday.
Jonathan Sexton had recovered from the hamstring injury that kept him out of the Scotland and France games and was originally named at fly-half.
But the IRFU have since released a statement ruling him after he tore a tendon in his left foot during this morning's training.
Paddy Jackson steps in as flyhalf while Ian Madigan joins the replacements.
Craig Gilroy returns on the right wing after overcoming a groin strain, replacing rib-fracture victim Fergus McFadden.
The pack is unchanged from the eight that started against France with lock Donnacha Ryan being given a clean bill of health after taking a bang on his shoulder at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
Substitute scrum-half Eoin Reddan fractured his leg against France, so uncapped Ulsterman Paul Marshall wins a spot on the bench that includes Devin Toner.
Kidney explained that Toner's line-out prowess earned him the nod over Donncha O'Callaghan as second row cover.
Ireland have never lost to Italy in the Six Nations with their last defeat to the Azzurri coming in 1997.
Victory in Rome, combined with France dispatching Scotland in Paris, would secure a third-place finish - a reasonable return given the number of injuries they have endured in the championship.
But defeat, also combined with a French win, would thrust them into contention for the wooden spoon.
Team: R Kearney (Leinster); C Gilroy (Ulster), B O'Driscoll (Leinster), L Marshall (Ulster), K Earls (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), M McCarthy (Connacht), D Ryan (Munster), P O'Mahony (Munster), S O'Brien (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster, capt).
Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), S Archer (Munster), D Toner (Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), P Marshall (Ulster), P Jackson (Ulster), L Fitzgerald (Leinster).