Ronan O’Gara starts against Italy after Jonathan Sexton injury means Declan Kidney is saved selection headache

Irish rugby coach Declan Kidney was saved from making arguably one of the hardest decisions of his managerial career when a dead leg ruled Leinster's Jonathan Sexton out of contention for a starting place for Ireland Six Nations opener against Italy this weekend.

As a result, Munster’s Ronan O’Gara will start at out half and has the chance to cement his place in the team if he can produce a convincing performance.

While this is bad luck for Sexton, O’Gara will not be able to rest on his laurels, as failure to impress will only mean the Kidney may have to make the same call again once the younger out half regains his fitness.

The Irish team to face Italy is:

1 - Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), 2 - Jerry Flannery (Shannon/Munster), 3 - John Hayes (Bruff/Munster, 4 - Donncha O'Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), 5 - Paul O'Connell (Young Munster/Munster), 6 - Kevin McLaughlin (St. Mary's College/Leinster), 7 - David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster) 8 - Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster)

9 - Tomas O'Leary (Dolphin/Munster, 10 - Ronan O'Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), 11 - Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster), 12 - Gordon D'Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster), 13 - Brian O'Driscoll (UCD/Leinster) (capt), 14 - Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), 15 - Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster)