Johnny Sexton and James Ryan start for Ireland against Italy in this Saturday's Guinness Six Nations clash at in Stadio Olimpico while the uncapped Craig Casey and Ryan Baird are on the bench.

Andy Farrell makes seven changes to the side were beaten in Dublin by France. Conor Murray remains out with a hamstring problem.

Farrell has gone for a new front-row combination of Dave Kilcoyne, Ronan Kelleher and Tadgh Furlong, who will start his first Test match in over a year. Ryan returns to the second row to partner Iain Henderson.

Tadgh Beirne shifts to the back row filling the blindside role with Will Connors at openside and CJ Stander at No 8.

Sexton returns to captain the side and partners Leinster team-mate Jamison Gibson Park in the half-backs.

Robbie Henshaw, who earns his 50th cap, will again line up with Garry Ringrose in the midfield. 

Hugo Keenan retains the No 15 jersey with James Lowe on the left wing and Jordan Larmour coming in on the right hand side in place of Keith Earls.

Farrell's front-row reshuffle sees Rob Herring, Cian Healy and Andrew Porter drop to the bench.

Out-half Billy Burns, who deputised for Sexton a fortnight ago against the French, is back among the replacements while the front-row reshuffle also sees Rob Herring, Cian Healy and Andrew Porter drop to the bench.

"We've got some guys coming back in, some guys that have a few more game under their belt and other guys that deserve a chance as well," Farrell said.

"All in all we feel this is the best side for this weekend against Italy.

"The front row has changed but the three that come in have been working together in training the last few weeks so there some continuity in that regard.

"Ronan deserves a start. His attitude has been first class in training."

Ireland have made their worst start to a Six Nations campaign and will be seeking to bounce back from defeats to Wales and the French.

Italy, who last beat Ireland in March 2013, will be bidding to avoid a 30th successive Six Nations defeat but Farrell insisted they are an improving outfit.

"I certainly feel they're good enough to stay in the competition long term. I can see the progress Franco [Smith] is making with them. They are certainly heading in the right direction."

Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe , Jonathan Sexton (Capt), Jamison Gibson Park; Dave Kilcoyne, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Will Connors, CJ Stander 

Replacements: Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Craig Casey, Billy Burns, Keith Earls

Follow Italy v Ireland (kick-off 2.15pm, Saturday, 27 February) via our live blog on and the RTÉ News app or listen live on RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday Sport. Highlights on Against the Head on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.

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