Six Nations: Ian Madigan back-up for Jonny Sexton in Ireland title-decider

• Reserve fly-half primed for first Six Nations action of season
• Peter O'Mahony only change to starting lineup against France

Ian Madigan is primed for his first Six Nations appearance of the season in Saturday's title-decider against France in Paris.

The Leinster fly-half will provide cover from the bench for Jonny Sexton, on the occasion of Brian O'Driscoll's 141st and final Test appearance.

The fit-again Peter O'Mahony is the sole change to the starting lineup from the 46-7 hammering of Italy in Dublin last weekend.

Iain Henderson drops to the bench, to cover lock and back-row, with Jordi Murphy retaining a replacements role and Rhys Ruddock dropping out of the squad.

Ulster's Paddy Jackson has deputised for the Racing Métro fly-half Sexton throughout the Six Nations so far, but misses out for the Stade de France encounter.

Madigan could find himself thrust into Ireland's most important Six Nations situation since their 2009 grand slam-clinching victory over Wales in Cardiff, if he joins the fray in the closing stages.

The 24-year-old has only 11 Leinster starts to his name this term, sharing duties with the Kiwi playmaker Jimmy Gopperth.

Now the head coach Joe Schmidt has backed the Leinster player to shoulder a hefty burden, as Ireland chase only their third win in 42 years in Paris. Schmidt will rely on the seven-cap Madigan's extra versatility from the bench, able to cover inside-centre as well as fly-half.

The Munster captain O'Mahony returns after the hamstring problem that kept him out of the seven-try Italy drubbing. Conor Murray and Cian Healy have both overcome niggling problems to retain their starting berths.

The scrum-half Murray's illness forced him out of the Azzurri rout in the first quarter, but Munster's British Lion had made a full recovery. The wrecking-ball loosehead prop Healy trudged out of the final stages in Dublin last weekend after picking up an ankle strain.

The 26-year-old Leinster front-rower spent Saturday night with his foot in a compression boot, and the precautionary measure paid dividends with Healy back to full training as early as Tuesday.

O'Driscoll will extend his Six Nations appearance record to 65 in his final international before his summer retirement. The 35-year-old Leinster stalwart and Gordon D'Arcy will extend their world-record international centre partnership to 56 joint appearances.

Ireland team to play France

Ireland: R Kearney (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster), B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, D Kearney (all Leinster), J Sexton (Racing Métro), C Murray (Munster), C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross, D Toner (both Leinster), P O'Connell (capt), P O'Mahony (both Munster), C Henry (Ulster), J Heaslip (Leinster). Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, M Moore (all Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), J Murphy, E Reddan, I Madigan, F McFadden (all Leinster). © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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