15 Simon Zebo Age: 22 Caps: 1 Club: Munster Height: 6ft 2in Weight: 94kg/14st 8lbsThis is a gamble that will be decided in the sky. Zebo will probably always have his detractors but the guy has a massive left peg and is a natural born finisher.
3 Mike Ross
Age: 32 Caps: 22 Club: Leinster Height: 6ft 2in Weight: 127kg/19st 13lbs
Tough scrummaging session coming against the Beast, but his technical research is so rigorous we presume he will have figured a way to at least break even.
12 Gordon D’Arcy
Age: 32 Caps: 69 Club: Leinster Height: 5ft 11in Weight: 91kg/14st 4lbs
As long as the body holds up he will keep delivering and has upped the performance levels in the past when O’Driscoll was absent. His passing game continues to improve.
13 Keith Earls
Age: 25 Caps: 32 Club: Munster Height: 5ft 11in Weight: 90kg/14st 2lbs
This is precisely where the Moyross flyer wants to be: in the centre for Ireland against a major rugby nation. His defence must match his attacking brilliance today.
9 Conor Murray
Age: 23 Caps: 12. Club: Munster Height: 6ft 2in Weight: 94kg/14st 8lbs
Despite the brain freeze against Racing Metro last month he’s bang on form, bringing a physicality Eoin Reddan doesn’t possess although they will probably swap places around 60 minutes.
10 Jonathan Sexton
Age: 27 Caps: 32 Club: Leinster Height: 6ft 2in Weight: 92kg/14st 7lbs
The best outhalf in European rugby right now. Must kick the lights out for Ireland to have any chance of victory and the suspicion is that he will do just that.
1 Cian Healy
Age: 25 Caps: 33 Club: Leinster Height: 6ft 1in Weight: 112kg/17st 9lbs
Praise the Lord the shoulder bang wasn’t serious. With so many absentees, the big Clontarf man needs to make an impact in the loose as well as at scrum time. Could well be an 80-minute shift.
6 Peter O’Mahony
Age: 23 Caps: 7 Club: Munster Height: 6ft 3in Weight: 105kg/16st 5lbs
Yet to establish himself at international level but may do just that today. There is a toughness and fearlessness about the Corkman that is comforting before battles like this.
7 Chris Henry
Age: 28 Caps: 2 Club: Ulster Height: 6ft 3in Weight: 107kg/16st 11lbs
Has become a respected disruptor of the breakdown at European level but matching Francois Louw and making an impression today is a new challenge he must meet if Ireland are to win.
14 Tommy Bowe
Age: 28 Caps: 49 Club: Ulster Height: 6ft 3in Weight: 98kg/15st 7lbs
A man with nothing to prove but a return to the form that saw him capped by the Lions in 2009 would prove hugely beneficial and give the watching Warren Gatland a timely reminder.
8 Jamie Heaslip (c)
Age: 28 Caps: 50 Club: Leinster Height: 6ft 4in Weight: 109kg/17st 2lbs
A complete performance is required from the new captain and that means carrying over the gainline while also producing his usual excellence on the ground.
5 Donnacha Ryan
Age: 28 Caps: 21 Club: Munster Height: 6ft 6in Weight: 113kg/17st 8lbs
Big occasion for the Nenagh man, who must match the physicality of Alberts and Etzebeth while also running a smooth lineout operation with a debutant hooker.
2 Richardt Strauss
Age: 26 Caps: 0 Club: Leinster. Height: 5ft 9in Weight: 102kg/ 16st
We expect the usual hooker/openside combination as this hybrid player endeavours to prove himself strong enough to match his countrymen on his debut for his adopted country.
4 Mike McCarthy
Age: 30 Caps: 4 Club: Connacht Height: 6ft 4in Weight: 112kg/17st 6lbs
Has shown enough form this season to be picked ahead of Donncha O’Callaghan, impressing against Harlequins’ huge locks without actually dominating.
11 Andrew Trimble
Age: 28 Caps: 48 Club: Ulster Height: 6ft 2in Weight: 98kg/15st 6lbs
He’s no David Skrela but he is Andrew Trimble. Has the physicality to nip Pietersen’s threat in the bud and will also cause a few problems if he gets the possession.