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Rugby | Six Nations

Peter O Mahony © Getty Images

Best rests as O'Mahony captains Ireland against Italy

Peter O'Mahony will captain Ireland in their Six Nations match away to Italy on Sunday after coach Joe Schmidt left regular captain Rory Best out of his matchday 23.

Sean Cronin has replaced Best at hooker, with Leinster's two-time European Champions Cup-winner making a belated first start in the Six Nations at the age of 32.

Although he has been capped 67 times by Ireland, 58 of Cronin's appearances have come off the bench – a record for any Ireland replacement.

Best's absence means the Ulster front-row forward will miss just his second Six Nations match in the last 63 – a run dating back to 2007 – with O'Mahony captaining the team for the first time in the Six Nations although the blindside flanker first led Ireland on their 2013 tour of North America.

Meanwhile Connacht flyhalf Jack Carty could make his test debut off the bench, with Joey Carbery sideline by a suspected hamstring problem.

Italy, coached by former Ireland fullback Conor O'Shea, are on a woeful run of 19 straight defeats in the Six Nations and it has become increasingly commonplace for their European rivals to rest senior players for matches against the Azzurri in a bid to keep them fresh for sterner challenges ahead.

Schmidt, however, did select his first-choice half-back duo of Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton in a starting XV announced Friday.

Ireland team to play Italy in a Six Nations international at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Sunday,

IRELAND (15-1)

Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jordi Murphy, Sean O'Brien, Peter O'Mahony (capt); Quinn Roux, Ultan Dillane; Tadhg Furlong, Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Jack McGrath, John Ryan, Iain Henderson, Josh van der Flier, John Cooney, Jack Carty, Andrew Conway


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