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.
In the back-line, centre Nevin Spence makes a return to the side from last season along with scrum half John Cooney.
Five forwards return from last season - prop Jack O'Connell, lock David O'Callaghan, Leinster duo Dominic Ryan and Rhys Ruddock in the back row and Brian Hayes in the replacements. Ruddock will captain this season's side.
When Ireland and Italy met in Piacenza in last year's Championship, there were only six points separating the sides by full-time. Tries from Thomas Sexton and Ronan O'Mahony helped the Irish to a 29-23 win.
Speaking to IrishRugby.ie about Friday's game, new captain Rhys Ruddock said: "We're not going to underestimate Italy. We went away to Italy last season, after beating France in the first game, and they were still within seven points of us late on - it was a very close match.
"We know they're a very physical team. They're definitely a hard team to put away, so we're not going to underestimate them at all."
Looking forward to leading the side out at Dubarry Park, he added: "Opposition teams always find it a bit of a shock coming down to play an international there, the crowd is very close to the pitch, it's very loud and a lot of people can squeeze into the small space.
"We get a really good atmosphere there for the games. For us, it's really become a fortress. The boys love playing there."
Having gone so close to winning the Championship last year, Ruddock, a member of the Leinster Academy, is determined to get Ireland challenging for the title again.
"We were really happy with a lot of our performances last year, such as the England match. Losing to Scotland just put a bit of a dampener on it. Not to get the Grand Slam after working so hard in the first couple of games was disappointing.
"We want to reach our potential this year because we have a really strong squad, and it would be disappointing not to come away with some good results and show off our talent in the squad.
"For us, it's about taking it one game at a time, but trying to win everyone is something we will be aiming for.
"The seven lads who were in the squad last year, we learnt a lot last season from the wins and the losses. Hopefully we can use our experience to push it through the rest of the squad and go one better this time around."
The Ireland Under-20 squad have been supported by sponsors PricewaterhouseCoopers over the last four seasons, during which time the team secured a Grand Slam in 2007.
That support will again be evident this year with the consultancy firm making its debut this Friday as team sponsor across the new Ireland playing strip, which the Under-20s will be wearing in their first competitive international fixture.
Commenting on their support of the Irish U-20s, Ronan Murphy, Senior Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: "We are delighted to continue our support for Irish rugby and for the Under-20s in particular.
"No matter what the challenges in sport or in business, having the right team, with the right talent, will achieve top class performance.
"At PwC, we are committed to helping clients tackle today's tough business challenges by having the best people working together. We wish the Under-20 squad success in this year's RBS U-20 6 Nations Championship."
Friday's game will be broadcast live on RTE Two and we will have updates here on IrishRugby.ie.
IRELAND UNDER-20 Team & Replacements (v Italy U-20, RBS U-20 6 Nations Championship, Dubarry Park, Friday, February 5, kick-off 7.35pm):
15. Andrew Conway (Blackrock College/Leinster)
14. Darren Hudson (St. Mary's College/Leinster)
13. Brendan Macken (Blackrock College/Leinster)
12. Nevin Spence (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
11. Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster)
10. James McKinney (Queen's University/Ulster)
9. John Cooney (UCD /Leinster)
1. Bryan Cagney (UCC/Munster)
2. Niall Annett (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
3. Jack O'Connell (Lansdowne/Leinster)
4. David O'Callaghan (UCC/Munster)
5. Ben Marshall (UCD/Leinster)
6. Rhys Ruddock (UCD/Leinster) (capt)
7. Dominic Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
8. Patrick Butler (Shannon/Munster)
16. David Doyle (UCD/Leinster)
17. Stewart Maguire (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)
18. Brian Hayes (Cork Constitution/Munster)
19. Robin O'Sullivan (Bective Rangers/Leinster)
20. Michael Heaney (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
21. Brian Kingston (Blackrock/Leinster)
22. Eoin Griffin (Corinthians/Connacht)