Ulster man Rob Herring could bag a Six Nations debut against Italians
Ireland set to increase Ulster representation
Ulster's Rob Herring could make his Six Nations debut on Saturday against Italy at the Aviva Stadium if named later today as back-up to skipper Rory Best for Ireland's second game of the series.
Herring, who has three Ireland caps, two of which came during last November's internationals, is vying for a place on the Irish bench with Leinster's Sean Cronin.
And though Cronin is hugely experienced, having won his 57th cap when coming on for Best in last Saturday's Jonathan Sexton-inspired last-gasp victory over France, it is believed that Joe Schmidt might opt for Herring in the match day 23.
Should the 27-year-old Cape Town native get the nod, then all four Ulster members of Schmidt's Six Nations squad ought to be involved against the Italians, who the Irish will be hoping to beat with a bonus point after Conor O'Shea's squad were seen off in Rome last Sunday by a rampant England.
Apart from Best, it is thought that Iain Henderson - who gathered the vital drop out ahead of Ireland's 41-phase match winning play - will start again, this time with Devin Toner coming in at lock.
Jacob Stockdale is also likely to be retained in an unchanged backline despite having been replaced shortly after missing a tackle in the lead-up to France's try.
Rising star Jordan Larmour is poised to win his first cap from the bench, while Dan Leavy and Jack Conan are set to be named in the back-row alongside Peter O'Mahony.
Jack McGrath should start at loose-head prop.