Jamie Heaslip has been omitted from the Ireland team to face Italy in the opening round of the RBS 6 Nations in Rome due a shoulder injury.

Heaslip has been unable to train fully this week due to the shoulder niggle and head coach Joe Schmidt has decided to rest the experienced back rower for the clash with the Azzurri in Rome.

His Leinster club-mate Jordi Murphy assumes the number eight in his absence.

Alongside Murphy in the back row, Leinster’s Sean O’Brien starts at openside. O’Brien returned to competitive action for the Ireland Wolfhounds against the England Saxons last Friday following a five-month injury lay-off after shoulder reconstruction.

O’Brien played 50 minutes against the Saxons and the Ireland management has decided that the 'Tullow Tank' has the requisite match fitness for the trip to Rome. Munster’s Tommy O’Donnell is the man chosen to provide back-row cover as a replacement.

Inside that trio, Ireland captain and Munster lock Paul O’Connell maintains his partnership with Leinster's Devin Toner in the second row. Ulster’s Iain Henderson is the replacement lock for the encounter.

Leinster fill both prop positions with Jack McGrath at loosehead and Mike Ross at tighthead. Ulster hooker Rory Best is named at number two as expected. Munster’s James Cronin is replacement loosehead, Leinster’s Sean Cronin is replacement hooker and his provincial club-mate Marty Moore is replacement tighthead.

At half-back regular scrum-half Conor Murray is in at number nine following his recovery from a neck injury. Alongside him at out-half Munster’s Ian Keatley gets the nod, with Leinster utility back Ian Madigan starting from the bench as out-half and centre cover.

In midfield, Connacht’s Robbie Henshaw and Ulster’s Jared Payne reform the partnership that performed so well in Ireland’s victory over South Africa last November, with Payne having now fully recovered from a foot injury.

That means there is no place for 81-cap veteran Gordon D'Arcy in the squad.

Ulster’s Tommy Bowe and Munster’s Simon Zebo are named on the wings, a move predicted ahead of the team announcement.

Leinster’s Rob Kearney remains Schmidt’s choice at full-back with Felix Jones covering the back three from the bench.

Italy have also named their team, which sees two changes from the side that lost 22-6 to South Africa in November.

Ireland team to face Italy: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Paul O’Connell (captain), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath.

Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 James Cronin, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Felix Jones.

Joe Schmidt

Live coverage of Ireland v Italy (Saturday 1430 at Stadio Olimpico) from 1330 on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.