Joe Schmidt believes pitching Robbie Henshaw into action against Romania could have risked the Connacht centre’s entire World Cup.
Ireland boss Schmidt is confident Henshaw will be ready to face Italy in spite of leaving the 21-year-old out of Sunday’s Pool D clash at Wembley.
Henshaw failed to recover from hamstring trouble in time to contest selection for Ireland’s second World Cup encounter, with head coach Schmidt making 12 changes from the side that thrashed Canada 50-7.
Darren Cave slots in at 12 with Cian Healy back in at loosehead prop, with Ireland naming their oldest-ever World Cup starting line-up.
“It was just that at the start of the week we felt we had to take it a little bit easier than we first thought with Robbie,” said Schmidt.
“If you get a re-injury on the same site then you are in a situation where his World Cup could be in doubt.
“So we’ve taken no risk.
“There are times to take risks but this is a great opportunity for Darren Cave.”
Ian Madigan will start at flyhalf with Paddy Jackson certain to get time from the bench - with Madigan potentially shifted to scrum-half durign the game.
“We want Ian (Madigan) and Paddy (Jackson) both to have some time at 10,” said Schmidt.
“But if the game’s going in a direction where we feel Ian would benefit from 15 minutes at nine, then that’s possible.”
IRELAND: S Zebo (Munster); T Bowe, J Payne, D Cave (all Ulster), K Earls (Munster); I Madigan, E Reddan; C Healy, R Strauss (all Leinster), N White (Connacht), D Ryan (Munster), D Toner, J Murphy (both Leinster), C Henry (Ulster), J Heaslip (Leinster, capt).
Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, T Furlong (all Leinster), P O’Connell (Toulon), S O’Brien (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), P Jackson (Ulster), R Kearney (Leinster).