Ireland captain Rory Best ruled out of Italy clash as young Munster star comes in for first start
Ireland captain Rory Best has been ruled out of this afternoon's Six Nations game with Italy after failing to shake off a stomach bug.
Munster hooker Niall Scannell comes into the team in place of the Ulster front row while Leinster's James Tracy will deputise on the bench.
Best missed yesterday's captain's run through illness and although Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby was hopeful that his captain would be healthy enough to line out today, Joe Schmidt has been forced to reshuffle his squad.
Jamie Heaslip will captain the side in place of Best.
"He probably could play but he needs the energy to play," Schmidt told RTE before the game.
"I just don't think it would have been best for Rory or the team. As important as he is to us, we are happy to show some confidence in Niall Scannell and James Tracy and what a fantastic opportunity it is for those two guys."
Ireland take on Italy in Rome at 2.25pm this afternoon as they look for their first win in the 2017 Six Nations. Schmidt's side opened their campaign with a 27-22 defeat away to Scotland in Murrayfield last Saturday.
Best's absence today ends his remarkable run of appearing in Ireland's last 51 Six Nations games.