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.
Peter O'Mahony was named man of the match against England last month
21 April 2017, 7:22pm
Peter O'Mahony's performance in the RBS 6 Nations finale for Ireland against England was crucial to his selection for the British & Irish Lions on Wednesday, Ireland and Lions defence coach Andy Farrell has revealed.