Dublin (AFP) - Joey Carbery has been called up to the enlarged Ireland squad for Saturday's Six Nations match with Italy as talismanic fly-half Johnny Sexton is undergoing rehab for a groin injury he suffered in the 32-19 win over France over a week ago.
The Irish will be bidding to make it three wins from three when they play a vastly improved Italy side in Rome and keep alive their hopes of a first Grand Slam since 2018.
Carbery was a surprise omission from the initial Six Nations squad -- he had been seen by many as the natural successor for Sexton when he retires after the Rugby World Cup later this year.
His call-up on Monday is no guarantee the 27-year-old New Zealand-born playmaker will be selected in the matchday 23 should Sexton fail to recover in time.
Ross Byrne -- who came on for Sexton in the France game a week ago and closed the game out -- and Carbery's Munster team-mate Jack Crowley appear to have moved ahead of him in head coach Andy Farrell's pecking order.
Veteran prop Cian Healy and hooker Dan Sheehan return to the 37-man squad having recovered from injuries that kept them out of the French match.
Sheehan being fit is good news for Farrell as Rob Herring, who started against France, is going through the return to play protocols following a high tackle from French prop Uini Atonio.
However, Farrell must once again prepare without pivotal players scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park (hamstring), prop Tadhg Furlong (calf) and centre Robbie Henshaw (shoulder) -- they have yet to make an appearance in this season's tournament.
Whilst they can entertain some hope of perhaps playing against Scotland in Edinburgh or the final match at home to England, second row forward Tadhg Beirne was ruled out of the rest of the campaign last week.
On Monday it was revealed his fellow Leinster lock Joe McCarthy will play no part either in the remainder of the tournament due to an ankle injury.