Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan has admitted the decision to drop full-back Girvan Dempsey and flanker Johnny O'Connor for Sunday's RBS 6 Nations opener against Italy was not an easy one.
Dempsey makes way for returning centre Gordon D'Arcy and O'Connor loses out to Denis Leamy as Ireland look to get their championship campaign off to a winning start.
"Girvan has been a stalwart at full-back so it was hard to leave him out. He played in the autumn but with Gordon D'Arcy coming back we needed to shuffle things about. It was a tough call," O'Sullivan said.
"This is the first occasion for some time that we've been able to select from a full deck. This is the strongest backline I've fielded.
"The back row is always going to tough. Johnny loses out - he acquitted himself very well against South Africa and Argentina but Denis has been chomping at the bit and has had a very big Heineken Cup."
Prop Reggie Corrigan will undergo a late fitness test after sustaining a knee injury with Marcus Horan on standby to take his place and Simon Best earmarked for the vacancy on the bench.
Second row Malcolm O'Kelly will make his 69th international appearance on Sunday, equalling the record set by Mike Gibson as Ireland's most capped player.
As head coach Stuart Lancaster polishes the axe he will soon wield over his World Cup training squad, Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter has backed Jack Nowell, Henry Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie to be given a stay of execution.
Italy Under-20s held off a late Samoa blitz to retain their place in the World Rugby U20 Championship on Saturday and head coach Alessandro Troncon believes the experience will have served as a valuable lesson for his young troops.