O'Gara back as injury rules out Sexton.
Fly-half Ronan O'Gara will win his 94th cap in Ireland's RBS 6 Nations opener with Italy after Leinster sensation Jonathan Sexton was ruled out through injury.
Sexton had been set to keep his place at ten after an impressive display in the autumn win over world champions South Africa but a dead leg has ruled him out.
That means O’Gara gets his chance with Leinster’s Kevin McLaughlin also in line for his debut in the back-row alongside David Wallace and Jamie Heaslip.
Andrew Trimble is back on the left-wing for his first start since March 2008 instead of Lions tourist Keith Earls and Gordon D’Arcy will partner Brian O’Driscoll in the centres for the defending champions.
Ulster hooker Rory Best’s rapid recovery from neck surgery has been rewarded with a place on the bench after he played in Ireland A’s defeat to the England Saxons.
Ireland team to face Italy at Croke Park:
15 - Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster)
14 - Tommy Bowe (Ospreys)
13 - Brian O'Driscoll (UCD/Leinster) (capt)
12 - Gordon D'Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster)
11 - Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster)
10 - Ronan O'Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster)
9 - Tomas O'Leary (Dolphin/Munster)
1 - Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
2 - Jerry Flannery (Shannon/Munster)
3 - John Hayes (Bruff/Munster)
4 - Donncha O'Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster)
5 - Paul O'Connell (Young Munster/Munster)
6 - Kevin McLaughlin (St. Mary's College/Leinster)
7 - David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster)
8 - Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster)
16 - Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster)
17 - Tom Court (Malone/Ulster)
18 - Leo Cullen (Blackrock College/Leinster)
19 - Sean O'Brien (Clontarf/Leinster)
20 - Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
21 - Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster)
22 - Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster)