RORY Best will captain Ireland in Saturday's clash with Scotland at the Aviva.
The Ulster hooker has been given the role after Paul O'Connell was ruled out for the remainder of the championship with the knee ligament damage sustained in Sunday's 17-17 draw with France.
Best, who has led Ireland twice before against Canada and USA in 2009, suffered a rib injury against Les Bleus but has been included in the starting line-up.
"It's a great honour to be asked to captain the side. It's something you dream of doing," Best said.
"It's very unfortunate that Paul's out but I'm honoured to do the job.
"We know we'll have to be on the money against Scotland. It will be a massive challenge for our defence."
Two changes have been made to the side that almost stormed the Stade de France with Donnacha Ryan replacing injured Munster team-mate O'Connell.
Eoin Reddan starts at scrum-half after Conor Murray was also ruled out for the last two matches against Scotland and England because of a knee injury.
Mike McCarthy and Tomas O'Leary have been drafted on to the bench to plug the gaps left by Ryan and Reddan.
Keith Earls (groin), Donncha O'Callaghan (ankle) and Sean O'Brien (foot) picked up knocks against France and will be assessed throughout the week.
Best, who will play his 58th Test on Saturday to equal Keith Wood's record as Ireland's most capped hooker, eased any concern over his fitness.
"It was more precautionary having the scan and it's comforting to know there's nothing sinister there. I trained fully today," said Best.
Ireland's hopes of resurrecting their title hopes faded with the stalemate in Paris and with two rounds remaining appear to be playing for third place.
A frustrating championship marred by injury and ill-fortune would deteriorate further were they to lose to wooden spoon contenders Scotland, who have won two of the last three meetings between the rivals.
Ireland XV: R Kearney (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), K Earls (Munster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster); J Sexton (Leinster), E Reddan (Leinster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster, capt), M Ross (Leinster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), D Ryan (Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), S O'Brien (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster).
Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), T Court (Ulster), M McCarthy (Connacht), P O'Mahony (Munster), T O'Leary (Munster), R O'Gara (Munster), F McFadden (Leinster).