News on O'Connell's injury is bad from a Munster point of view because he has had a pin inserted and has been ruled out for four or five weeks which means he will not be available to them when they travel to Stradey Park at the end of the month.
Eddie O'Sullivan has bracketed Marcus Horan with Simon Best at loose-head prop, the Irish coach hoping that Horan will recover from a calf injury in time to take his place in the starting line-up against the Italians.
Italy centre Gonzalo Canale has been ruled out of Saturday's game because of a thigh injury picked up in the course of his side's
23-20 win over Wales and there is also the strong possibility that the Italians will be without the hugely influential Mauro Bergamasco who faces an ERC disciplinary hearing today.
Ireland: G Dempsey; S Horgan, B O'Driscoll (capt), G D'Arcy, D Hickie; R O'Gara, P Stringer; M Horan/S Best, R Best, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, M O'Driscoll, S Easterby, D Wallace, D Leamy.
Replacements: J Flannery, S Best/B Young, T Hogan, N Best, E Reddan, P Wallace, A Trimble.