IRELAND HEAD COACH Joe Schmidt has made two changes to his starting team to face Italy on Saturday [KO 2.25pm Irish time], with Donnacha Ryan and Cian Healy coming into the XV.

There is one further change to the matchday squad as Craig Gilroy comes onto the bench in place of Tommy Bowe.

Healy came off the bench last weekend at Murrayfield. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Ryan replaces Iain Henderson in the second row, with the Ulsterman dropping out of the squad completely, while Healy starts at loosehead in place of Jack McGrath, who is retained as a replacement.

Healy will make his first Six Nations start since the 2015 victory over Scotland in Edinburgh, having showed ever-improving form this season.

Ryan, meanwhile, comes back into the team after missing out against Scotland and Australia in Ireland’s two most recent games.

Schmidt cited a medial ligament knee injury as one of the reasons for Ryan’s omission last weekend in Edinburgh, but the fact that the Munster man was present as 24th man at Murrayfield underlines that he would have been fit enough to feature if required.

Gilroy’s inclusion on the Ireland bench is a surprise, after Andrew Trimble had been expected to make a return to the matchday squad. Munster hooker Niall Scannell will hope for his international debut against Italy, having been an unused replacement last weekend.

Ireland (v Italy):

15. Rob Kearney
14. Keith Earls
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Simon Zebo
10. Paddy Jackson
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Donnacha Ryan
5. Devin Toner
6. CJ Stander
7. Sean O’Brien
8. Jamie Heaslip


16. Niall Scannell
17. Jack McGrath
18. John Ryan
19. Ultan Dillane
20. Josh van der Flier
21. Kieran Marmion
22. Ian Keatley
23. Craig Gilroy

Referee: Glen Jackson [NZR].

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