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Six Nations: Ulster Rugby's Iain Henderson first start for Ireland against Italy in Dublin

Ulster Rugby's Iain Henderson is to make his first start for Ireland during Saturday's Six Nations clash against Italy in Dublin.

The versatile forward will win his ninth cap and first Six Nations start against the Azzurri, replacing Peter O'Mahony at blindside flanker.

The 22-year-old back-five forward slots in with boss Schmidt not risking Munster captain O'Mahony, who failed to come through training on Thursday.

Meanwhile, head coach Joe Schmidt has said Ireland have no conflict of interest with Racing Metro over fly-half Johnny Sexton.

Sexton has beaten a thumb ligament strain in time to win selection for the weekend clash with Italy.

The 28-year-old proved his fitness by training fully on Thursday, ahead of Ireland's penultimate Six Nations fixture, where Brian O'Driscoll will set a new world record for Test appearances by reaching 140.

Racing threw Sexton's Six Nations into doubt by last week predicting the thumb injury sustained in 13-10 England defeat could last anywhere from 10 days to six weeks.

Ireland bosses quickly rejected that assessment, a move that has now been vindicated with Sexton's selection to face Italy.

"I have absolutely no concerns about selecting Johnny, he is fully fit," said Schmidt.

"It was a sprained thumb, and he finished the [England] game.

"There was bruising, and it's gone."

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