Ireland refuse to risk Sexton against Italy
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Ireland have decided to do without inspirational flyhalf Jonathan Sexton for their key Six Nations international against Italy in Rome on Saturday.
Sexton missed Ireland's tournament-opening 22-27 loss away to Scotland last week with calf trouble and coach Joe Schmidt has resisted the temptation to rush him back for a match where defeat would effectively signal the end of his side's title challenge.
Instead, as was the case at Murrayfield, Paddy Jackson will be the starting flyhalf against an Italy team coached by former Ireland fullback Conor O'Shea.
Sexton has not played since Leinster's 24-24 draw at French club Castres in a European Champions Cup tie on January 20.
Ireland, however, hope to have the 31-year-old British and Irish Lions international available by the time they face France in Dublin on February 25.
Meanwhile, No.8 Donnacha Ryan and prop Cian Healy were the only changes to Ireland's starting XV announced by Schmidt on Thursday.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Christiaan Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (captain), 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 John Ryan, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ian Keatley, 22 Craig Gilroy.
Date: Saturday, February 11
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Kick-off: 15.25 (14.25 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)