ANDREW TRIMBLE will make yet another Ireland comeback against Scotland on Sunday after Joe Schmidt confirmed the winger will start the Six Nations opener.
The Ulster man was left out of last year’s Championship squad before being called back in to make his 50th cap against Canada last summer. He wasn’t involved in the November internationals, but will don the green jersey once again this weekend.
Leinster and Ulster dominate Schmidt’s selection with the Pro12 champions fielding 12 players in the squad as well as Johnny Sexton.
Luke Marshall starts alongside Brian O’Driscoll in the centre with Gordon D'Arcy not making the squad because of a stomach bug.
"It was a very, very close call," said Schmidt, after selecting Marshall ahead of Leinster stalwart D'Arcy.
"I think part of it was that Gordon had a little bit of a stomach bug at the start of the week.
"Because it was a tight call, Luke got a little bit more of the training time and would feel a little bit more comfortable.
"Luke made a couple of really good telling breaks against the Australians in the autumn, then Gordon D'Arcy played as well as I've seen him against the All Blacks."
Schmidt admitted he does not know how long scrum-half Eoin Reddan will be out with his calf problem, and Luke Fitzgerald with a hip complaint.
"They are both in the same basket," said Schmidt.
"I guess we won't know until next week whether either will be right for the second round, against Wales.
"The one thing we felt with Luke was that if we tried to push too hard this week we might lose him for more than next week anyway."
BOD is set to become Ireland’s most capped international with 129 when he lines up against the Scots, breaking Ronan O'Gara's all-time record.
Chris Henry gets the nod at openside, with Munster’s Tommy O’Donnell on the bench alongside Paddy Jackson and Dan Tuohy who are chosen ahead of Ian Madigan and Iain Henderson.
Dave Kearney wins his first Six Nations start, alongside older brother and full-back Rob.
The team features 12 of the side who came so close to beating New Zealand in November, with Martin Moore set to make his debut off the bench.
The 22-year-old tighthead prop has been named as a replacement for the Scotland clash and will join the fray for the final quarter when Schmidt empties his bench.
Moore and Leinster team-mate Jack McGrath have impressed senior front-rowers in Ireland training this week, notably in scrummaging sessions.
Both will be tasked with adding impetus in the closing stages on Sunday, with Schmidt underlining his high regard for the fast-developing Leinster duo.
Ireland team to face Scotland: (15-9) R Kearney; A Trimble, B O’Driscoll, L Marshall, D Kearney; J Sexton, C Murray; (1-8) C Healy, R Best, M Ross, D Toner, P O’Connell (capt), P O’Mahony, C Henry, J Heaslip.
Replacements: (16-23) S Cronin, J McGrath, M Moore, D Tuohy, T O’Donnell; I Boss, P Jackson, F McFadden.
IRELAND V SCOTLAND MATCH FACTS
* Former Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll will set a new all-time caps record of 129 on Sunday, surpassing Ronan O'Gara's tally of 128.
* Fly-half Johnny Sexton is just eight points away from moving third on Ireland's all-time points-scoring charts.
* Ireland have lost their last four RBS 6 Nations matches but have never lost five in a row in the 14 years of the six-country competition format.
* Scotland have won just two of their last eight Test matches, against Italy and Japan.
* Scotland's 23-20 win over Ireland at Croke Park in 2010 is their sole Six Nations away victory in their last 17 tournament matches on the road.
* Ireland have won just one of their last five fixtures at the Aviva Stadium.
* Ireland have only lost one Six Nations round-one match since 2004, against Wales in 2012.
* Scotland's 23-20 Croke Park victory in 2010 is their only win in Dublin since 1998.
* Ireland full-back Rob Kearney will win his 50th cap against the Scots, the 27-year-old Leinster flyer hitting the milestone after his 2006 debut.
* Scotland will field four Six Nations debutants: lock Tim Swinson, centres Alex Dunbar and Duncan Taylor and flanker Ryan Wilson.