12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
Ireland Under-21 coach Mark McDermott has confirmed his side for Friday's Under-21 6 Nations Championship clash with Italy U-21 at Dubarry Park, Athlone (kick-off 7.35pm, live RTE 2).
The starting XV shows two changes and two positional switches to the side that started and managed to beat the Leinster 'A' team 40-12 last month.
Peter Durcan moves from the right to the left wing, with Matthew Williams taking the vacant right wing spot. Jonathon Sexton, who missed the game due to an ankle injury, is named at fly half and his deputy for the Leinster game, Conan Doyle moves to the centre in favour of Fergus McFadden. The latter is amongst the replacement.
Friday's U-21 opener will be televised live on RTE 2 from Dubarry Park, which will as "the home of the Under-21s" for this year's Championship, with encounters with Wales (February 24) and Scotland (March 10) to follow at the midlands venue.
The arrival of the Italian U-21s will present a similar challenge to the one that their senior team will pose Eddie O'Sullivan's men on Saturday - a game high on physicality. This is something that is not lost on Irish coach Mark McDermott. He said: "I think Italy is well up there with all the top sides at this level with their physicality, but in saying that, they also have a bit of flair to add to it.
He added: "Our approach will be to try and get put our patterns in place early on and then play from there. I think we started to reach the levels we wanted during our last game, so hopefully we can hit the ground running on Friday night."
Belfast Harlequins hooker Stuart Philpott will captain the Irish side.
IRELAND UNDER-21 (v Italy U-21, Dubarry Park, 7.35pm, Friday, February 3):
15. Fionn Carr (Blackrock College)
14. Matthew Williams (Bristol Shoguns/Hartpury College)
13. Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins)
12. Conan Doyle (Garryowen)
11. Peter Durcan (Galwegians)
10. Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary's College)
9. Paul Marshall (Ballynahinch)
1. Darragh Hurley (UCC)
2. Stuart Philpott (Belfast Harlequins) (CAPTAIN)
3. Paul Doran-Jones (Dublin University)
4. Devin Toner (Lansdowne)
5. Daniel Touhy (Gloucester/Hartpury College)
6. Ross Noonan (UCC)
7. Ejike Uzoigwe (Hartpury College)
8. Billy Holland (UCC)
16. Sean Cronin (Shannon)
17. Callum Black (Worcester Warriors/Hartpury College)
18. David McGowan (Buccaneers)
19. Sean O'Brien (UCD)
20. Duncan Williams (UCC)
21. Tom Gleeson (Cork Consitution)
22. Fergus McFadden (UCD)