O’Mahony returns for O’Driscoll’s farewell

Fit-again back-row Peter O’Mahony was the only changed named by Ireland coach Joe Schmidt in his starting side for Saturday’s Six Nations title-decider away to France in Paris.

O’Mahony missed Ireland’s 46-7 rout of Italy last time out with hamstring trouble but has been passed fit for what is set to be Irish rugby great Brian O’Driscoll’s final Test before retirement.

Iain Henderson, who came in for O’Mahony against Italy, drops back down to the bench.

Leinster fly-half Ian Madigan will provide cover for starting No.10 Jonathan Sexton.

Ulster’s Paddy Jackson has deputised for Sexton, who plays for Paris-based Racing Metro, during the Six Nations this far.

But the 24-year-old Madigan, who this season has made just 11 starts for Leinster — where he shares fly-half duties with New Zealand’s Jimmy Gopperth — could come on as Ireland seek only their third win in Paris in 42 years.

“Sometimes you make those replacements because of injury and sometimes to change up what you’re doing,” Schmidt said in a press conference broadcast by IrishRugbyTV.

“I feel confident Ian’s the right man to do those two things for us within the current squad,” the Kiwi coach added.

“Ian is a very good player and he does give us coverage through the midfield and at full-back.”

Centre star O’Driscoll, already the world’s most-capped player, will be making his 141st Test appearance on Saturday.

It was in Paris that the 35-year-old Leinster midfielder announced himself to world rugby by scoring a hat-trick of tries in Ireland’s 27-25 victory in 2000.

Ireland go into Saturday’s final round of matches level on points with title rivals England and France, all three teams having won three of their four matches so far this season.

But the Irish have a commanding points difference advantage of +49 over England, who in turn are +29 better off than France.

Any sort of Ireland victory should be enough to see the visitors send O’Driscoll off in style with the Championship, although England could emerge on top if they beat Italy earlier Saturday and France defeat the Irish.

A draw, the result in the last two France-Ireland encounters, would hand the title to England provided they win in Rome.

Ireland

Rob Kearney, Andrew Trimble, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Dave Kearney; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip, Chris Henry, Peter O’Mahony; Paul O’Connell (capt), Devin Toner; Mike Ross, Rory Best, Cian Healy

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Martin Moore, Iain Henderson, Jordi Murphy, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Fergus McFadden

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