DONNACHA RYAN looks set to be reinstated to the Irish second-row for their round two trip to Rome but Joe Schmidt is not expected to make wholesale changes to the team that lost to Scotland last weekend.
The Munster lock has been in great form this season but was surprisingly left out of the Murrayfield clash. The head coach could also recall Andrew Trimble on the right wing in place of Keith Earls, while Cian Healy is set to replace Jack McGrath in the front-row.
Although he has featured prominently for his province, Schmidt said Ryan carried a knee injury into the Six Nations and Iain Henderson started at Murrayfield.
Ryan, who started both games against New Zealand in November, was fit enough to travel to Edinburgh as the 24th man and he is believed to be in line to replace Henderson in the only change to the Irish starting XV as the Ulster star drops to the bench in place of Ultan Dillane.
Johnny Sexton is expected to be kept on ice until the France match in a fortnight’s time with Peter O’Mahony also likely to be ruled out, but Trimble is fit again and while he may be confined to a bench role he is pushing hard to replace Earls in order to bring his trademark aggression to the Irish defence.
Tadhg Furlong has been Ireland’s chief concern this week but he will be named in the team if he comes through training this morning, with John Ryan set to deputise despite Finlay Bealham’s return. On the other side of the scrum, Schmidt looks likely to rotate his props and bring Healy in for Jack McGrath to freshen things up.
The rest of the team looks set to remain unchanged when Schmidt names it at lunch-time tomorrow.
Italy coach Conor O’Shea names his team at 12.30 tomorrow and captain Sergio Parisse looks set to start after struggling with a neck injury earlier this week.
Possible Ireland team to face Italy: R Kearney; K Earls/A Trimble, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, S Zebo; P Jackson, C Murray; C Healy, R Best (capt), T Fulrong; D Ryan, D Toner; CJ Stander, S O’Brien, J Heaslip. Reps: N Scannell, J McGrath, J Ryan, I Henderson, J van der Flier, K Marmion, I Keatley, A Trimble/K Earls.