Sexton fit to face Italy

Ireland's Jonny Sexton has been passed fit to face Italy in the Six Nations in Dublin on Saturday.

The Racing Metro fly-half had been a doubt for the game because of an injured thumb but he has recovered sufficiently to take on the Azzurri.

Thee only changes to the side which lost to England last time out sees Ulster's Iain Henderson replace Peter O'Mahony at blindside flanker.

Munster captain O'Mahony has a hamstring problem and head coach Joe Schmidt has decided not to risk the British & Irish Lions star, with a potential title-decider with France looming on March 15.

Sexton damaged thumb ligaments in Ireland's 13-10 England defeat on February 22.

Sexton proved his fitness in Thursday's training session.

Former captain Brian O'Driscoll will set a new world-record for Test appearances, taking his tally to 140 with his eight Lions bows included.

The Leinster supserstar will beat former Australia scrum-half George Gregan's total of 139 against Italy.

Seven of Ireland's eight replacements hail from Leinster, the province Schmidt coached before stepping up to Ireland duty last summer.

Team: 15 R Kearney, 14 Trimble, 13 O'Driscoll, 12 D'Arcy, 11 D Kearney, 10 Sexton, 9 Murray, 1 Healy, 2 Best, 3 Ross, 4 Toner, 5 O'Connell, 6 Henderson, 7 Henry, 8 Heaslip (Leinster).

Replacements: 16 Cronin, 17 McGrath, 18 Moore, 19 Ruddock, 20 J Murphy, 21 Reddan, 22 Jackson, 23 McFadden.