Rory Best has won his fitness battle to captain Ireland in Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Scotland.
The hooker has overcome a calf niggle in time for the final Six Nations battle, with Ireland aiming to salvage a third-place finish from a frustrating, injury-hit campaign.
Flanker Tommy O’Donnell has been preferred to young gun Josh van der Flier at openside in Ireland’s only change, with boss Joe Schmidt mindful of countering Scotland’s impressive breakdown work.
Simon Zebo starts at fullback as expected with Rob Kearney again sidelined with hamstring trouble, while Keith Earls will win his 50th cap on the left wing.
Defending champions Ireland surrendered their title by drawing with Wales and losing in France and England, so are now bidding to finish with something of a flourish.
Best’s recover from calf trouble should ensure a steady scrum, though Ireland are sufficiently concerned about Scotland’s set-piece to select big-scrummaging Richardt Strauss on the bench ahead of Sean Cronin.
Fast-developing flanker Van der Flier has proved his wide Test potential, seizing on Ireland’s raft of backrow injuries during this tournament.
Ireland are desperate to end their campaign with a second victory, however, leaving head coach Schmidt refusing to take any chances, and restoring 28-year-old O’Donnell to his starting back-row cordon.
Talented 22-year-old lock Ultan Dillane has another chance to impress off the bench, while fit-again Cian Healy and Eoin Reddan are restored to the replacements after missing last weekend’s rout of Italy.