The Ireland coaching team have announced the side that will take on Scotland in the final round of the RBS 6 Nations at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 5pm).
Rory Best will make his 33rd consecutive RBS 6 Nations start, leading a team that sees Jack McGrath and Mike Ross pack down alongside him in the front row.
Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner continue their second row partnership, while the fit-again Tommy O’Donnell comes in at openside flanker with CJ Stander and Jamie Heaslip, the scorer of two tries against Italy, completing the back row trio.
Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton line out at half-back in an unchanged back-line, with Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne continuing in midfield. Sexton needs just two more points to eclipse David Humphreys (560 points) as Ireland’s second top points scorer of all-time.
Simon Zebo retains the number 15 jersey and is flanked in the wide channels by Keith Earls and Andrew Trimble. It will be a landmark appearance for Earls as he wins his 50th Ireland cap on Saturday, following in the footsteps of fellow Limerick man Sean Cronin will hit the half-century mark last week.
The replacements bench includes Cian Healy and Eoin Reddan, both of whom have recovered from injury, while Richardt Strauss is also in the mix as reserve hooker.
Commenting on the one change in personnel, head coach Joe Schmidt said: “Josh (van der Flier) has shipped a couple of knocks in the last two games, and he got a bump in training on Monday. I think they’ve been pretty attritional for Josh going back-to-back in his first two Test matches.
“He would be fit to play but at the same time is carrying a few knocks. Conversely Tommy has trained incredibly well. He hasn’t had the luckiest of preparations with us in previous times, and we’re looking forward to contributing a really athletic, combative performance this weekend.
“It’s bumps and bruises (for Josh), he’s involved himself a lot, his contact work has been high so we just felt it was pertinent to give him a rest and give Tommy an opportunity.
“We’ve tried to balance opportunity with continuity across the course of the Six Nations and we hope that will bear fruit in future. Rory Best trained fully today too, and showed no ill-effects of the tight calf that he had on Monday.”
IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Scotland, 2016 RBS 6 Nations Championship, Aviva Stadium, Saturday, March 19, kick-off 5pm):
15. Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster) 24
14. Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster) 62
13. Jared Payne (Ulster) 13
12. Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht) 19
11. Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 49
10. Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 60
9. Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 46
1. Jack McGrath (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 29
2. Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) (capt) 93
3. Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster) 58
4. Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster) 38
5. Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 35
6. CJ Stander (Munster) 4
7. Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster) 11
8. Jamie Heaslip (Dublin University/Leinster) (vice-capt) 84
16. Richardt Strauss (Old Wesley/Leinster) 15
17. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 57
18. Nathan White (Connacht) 12
19. Ultan Dillane (Corinthians/Connacht) 2
20. Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 9
21. Eoin Reddan (Old Crescent/Leinster) 69
22. Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster) 29
23. Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster) 31