Dave Kilcoyne, Sean Cronin and Ultan Dillane will all make their first Six Nations start as Joe Schmidt makes four changes to the Ireland team for Sunday's Guinness Six Nations clash with Italy (kick-off 3pm).

The other change in personnel is also in the pack where Jordi Murphy comes in for Jack Conan at number 8.

Head coach Joe Schmidt has resisted any temptation to tinker with the backline against the struggling Italians, with Chris Farrell fending off the challenge of fit again Robbie Henshaw at outside centre.

Johnny Sexton and Conort Murray start together for the 50th time for Ireland as both look to get more minutes under their belts. The pair also started last year’s 56-19 thumping of the Italians.

Connacht’s Jack Carty will provide out-half cover on the bench and will make his Test debut if called upon in Rome.

Seán Cronin will earn his 68th cap on Sunday, but it will mark his first start in the Six Nations. Indeed it will be just the 10th occasion the Leinster hooker has started for his country since making his bow 10 years ago. Rory Best is given the week off altogether with Niall Scannell being named as replacement hooker. 

Dave Kilcoyne, Ultan Dillane and Jordi Murphy are the other three changes from the 22-13 victory at Murrayfield.

Kilcoyne comes into a new look front row and also makes his first Six Nations start, again getting the nod over Jack McGrath, who must settle for a place on the bench with Cian Healy rested. Andrew Porter loses out to John Ryan as Tadhg Furlong’s backup.

Ultan Dillane and Dave Kilcoyne will start in the forwards against the Italians in Rome

Quinn Roux has a new second row partner this week, with Connacht team-mate Ultan Dillane preferred to fit-again Iain Henderson as James Ryan’s replacement.

The other change comes in the backrow where Jordi Murphy replaces Jack Conan at number 8, with Peter O'Mahony captaining the side at blindside flanker and Seán O'Brien selected at openside.

Rob Kearney is named at full-back, with Andrew Conway providing cover in the back-three.

Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale remain on the wings, while Farrell is partnered by Bundee Aki, a Six Nations ever-present since making his debut in 2017.

Injury concerns affected Schmidt's plans for the backline with the coach admitting that Robbie Henshaw "probably" could have played, but felt he hadn't quite got through the required running in training to line out at full-back.

Joey Carbery, meanwhile, has a hamstring strain and the head coach says the Munster out-half would have been too great a risk.

An innocuous finger injury picked up in training means Jordan Larmour isn't part of the squad, but will "definitely" be fit for next week, while Jack Conan is absent with an abdominal complaint.

Josh van der Flier is the backrow option among the replacements, while John Cooney is primed for his third successive outing if called upon to replace Murray.

Ireland v Italy: Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Seán Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux ; Peter O’Mahony (captain), Seán O’Brien, Jordi Murphy.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Jack McGrath, John Ryan, Iain Henderson, Josh van der Flier, John Cooney, Jack Carty, Andrew Conway.

Follow Italy v Ireland (3pm) via our liveblog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the News Now app, or listen to live national radio commentary on 2fm