Ireland have handed a full international debut to hooker Tom Stewart for Saturday’s clash with Samoa as they sweat on the fitness of Dan Sheehan ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
Ulster player Stewart won his first Test cap as a replacement during his country’s 33-17 victory over Italy at the start of the month.
The 22-year-old now has a further chance to stake his claim for a place in Andy Farrell’s final 33-man selection for the upcoming tournament in France when Ireland conclude their warm-up fixtures in Bayonne.
Head coach Farrell, who has made 12 personnel changes to the starting XV which began Saturday’s resounding 29-10 win over England, potentially has problems in the number two position.
First-choice starter Sheehan has remained in Dublin for assessment on the foot issue which forced him off in the first half against Steve Borthwick’s side, while fellow Leinster hooker Ronan Kelleher is yet to play competitively this summer due to a hamstring problem.
Rob Herring will provide back-up for provincial team-mate Stewart from the bench after coming on to replace Sheehan last weekend at the Aviva Stadium. Uncapped Munster hooker Diarmuid Barron is also with the group in south-west France.
Saturday evening’s match at Stade Jean Dauger is a final audition for players before Farrell names his World Cup squad on Monday afternoon.
Stuart McCloskey has another chance to impress at inside centre, while Jack Crowley will partner Munster team-mate Conor Murray in the half-back positions in the final match of captain Johnny Sexton’s three-game ban.
International rookie Stewart will be joined in the front row by props Cian Healy and Finlay Bealham, with Iain Henderson skippering the side from the second row, where he will pack down with Tadhg Beirne.
Caelan Doris returns at number eight in an all-Leinster back row, joining Ryan Baird and reigning world player of the year Josh Van Der Flier.
Centre Robbie Henshaw, wings Keith Earls and Mack Hansen, and full-back Jimmy O’Brien also start.
Props Jeremy Loughman and Tom O’Toole, lock James Ryan, flanker Peter O’Mahony, scrum-half Craig Casey, fly-half Ross Byrne and centre Garry Ringrose join Herring on the bench.
Ulster wing Jacob Stockdale and Leinster fly-half Ciaran Frawley are among those left out with World Cup selection looming.