Brian O'Driscoll back in Ireland side for Six Nations opener against Wales
Last Updated: 30/01/13 6:45am
Sean O'Brien and Brian O'Driscoll will return to the Ireland side for the Millennium Stadium clash with Wales
Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Kearney, Sean O'Brien and Rory Best are restored to the Ireland starting line-up for Saturday's Six Nations trip to Wales.
The key quartet missed the autumn internationals through injury but return as Ireland attempt to end a run of three successive defeats against the defending champions.
For the first time since succeeding Keith Wood as captain in 2004, O'Driscoll is relieved of the leadership duties following coach Declan Kidney's decision to appoint Jamie Heaslip skipper.
The 34-year-old resumes his centre partnership alongside Leinster team-mate Gordon D'Arcy for a record 48th time with France-bound Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray selected at half-back.
Youngsters Craig Gilroy and Simon Zebo have been rewarded for their impressive showings during the autumn.
They form an exciting back three with Kearney, which means Keith Earls must settle for a place among the replacements.
"It was a tight call because there's so much competition. Fergus McFadden and Keith Earls have been playing well, so it's testament to the way Craig and Simon have been playing that they're selected," said Kidney.
Best returns at hooker in place of the injured Richardt Strauss, while Peter O'Mahony's selection ahead of Chris Henry gives Ireland added options at the line-out.
Mike McCarthy and Donnacha Ryan are named in the second row, with Ulster tight-head Declan Fitzpatrick named on the bench ahead of Michael Bent, who struggled last weekend against the England Saxons.
Ireland: Kearney, Gilroy, O'Driscoll, D'Arcy, Zebo, Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best, Ross, McCarthy, Ryan, O'Mahony, O'Brien, Heaslip.
Replacements: Cronin, Kilcoyne, Fitzpatrick, O'Callaghan, Henry, Reddan, O'Gara, Earls.