Inspirational captain Brian O’Driscoll will lead Ireland in their must-win match against England at Croke Park.
O’Driscoll’s return from a hamstring strain sees Shane Horgan shifting from centre out to the right wing, while Geordan Murphy drops out of the squad altogether.
The Irish are hoping for a bit of luck before Saturday, with first-choice halfbacks Peter Stringer and Ronan O’Gara still nursing injuries. Stringer fractured his hand and miss the 20-17 loss to France two weeks ago, and should he fail to recover in time, Isaac Boss will step in once again.
O’Gara missed training last week with an ankle ailment, but should be fit for the England match.
Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan confirmed the importance of this match.
“The Triple Crown is still alive and we could still win the championship. The Grand Slam has definitely gone, but there’s no point dwelling on that,” he said.
“It’s a pivotal game in our championship. If we win we’re right back in it. If we lose, our championship is dead in the water and we’ll be fighting for a spot down the table.
“England also want to make it three out of three to keep them in the title race.”
Ireland – 15 Girvan Dempsey, 14 Shane Horgan, 13 Brian O’Driscoll (c), 12 Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Denis Hickie, 10 Ronan O’Gara, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Denis Leamy, 7 David Wallace, 6 Simon Easterby, 5 Paul O’Connell, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 John Hayes, 2 Rory Best, 1 Marcus Horan.
Subs: 16 Jerry Flannery, 17 Simon Best, 18 Mick O’Driscoll, 19 Neil Best, 20 Isaac Boss, 21 Paddy Wallace, 22 Andrew Trimble.