Jamie Heaslip has been named Ireland captain for their opening autumn international against South Africa at Aviva Stadium on Saturday, after Declan Kidney selected his side on Thursday.
The Lions No.8 has been capped 50 times by Ireland and will assume the role in the injury-enforced absence of the injured trio Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell and Rory Best.
It will be the first appearance as captain for Heaslip, who was part of the RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam winning team in 2009.
Kidney’s selection has been made difficult with injuries – with Rob Kearney and Sean O’Brien both out, as well as Ulster powerhouse flanker Stephen Ferris.
Munster’s Simon Zebo steps into the breach at full-back, where he will make his first international start, with the familiar Ulster pairing of Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe – who wins 50th
cap – completing Ireland’s back three.
Keith Earls and Gordon D’Arcy, who have 101 caps between them, complete the Irish midfield, with Leinster’s Jonathan Sexton at 10 and Conor Murray at scrum-half.
South African-born Richardt Strauss will make his Ireland debut at hooker, where he will line up opposite cousin Adriaan after he was named in the Springbok line-up.
Strauss is eligible to play after being resident in Ireland for three years, and will feature alongside provincial colleagues Cian Healy and Mike Ross.
Mick McCarthy wins his fifth cap in the back row alongside Donnacha Ryan, while Chris Henry wins his third at openside with Munster’s Peter O’Mahony at blindside.
Replacements Michael Bent, David Kilcoyne and Iain Henderson all stand to make their international debut if they are brought on.
Though his hand was forced in some areas due to growing casualty list, Kidney admits he is relishing the opportunity to see how Heaslip responds to the challenge of leading the makeshift Ireland team.
“I think Jamie is a great example to lead this squad – he’s been in the group for five or six years now and he’s a model professional so I think he’s a great example for this new look side," he said.
“When you lose experienced players it is always harder but this is always something I wanted to do and we’ve been thinking about the future for a long time now.
“When you have an ageing squad you always need to be planning for the future, and we have been building towards this for the last five years."
15 – Simon Zebo
14 - Tommy Bowe
13 – Keith Earls
12 – Gordon D'Arcy
11 – Andrew Trimble
10 – Jonathan Sexton
9 – Conor Murray
1 – Cian Healy
2 – Richardt Strauss
3 – Mike Ross
4 – Donnacha Ryan
5 – Mike McCarthy
6 – Peter O'Mahony
7 – Chris Henry
8 – Jamie Heaslip
16 – Sean Cronin
17 – David Kilcoyne
18 – Michael Bent
19 – Donncha O'Callaghan
20 – Iain Henderson
21 – Eoin Reddan
22 – Ronan O'Gara
23 – Fergus McFadden