Dublin - Ireland scrumhalf Conor Murray declared himself fit to start their defence of their Six Nations' title in Italy on Saturday, ensuring the champions are not left vulnerable at half back with Johnny Sexton ruled out.
Munster's Murray, whose partnership with flyhalf Sexton has been key to Ireland's rise to third in the world rankings following victories over South Africa and Australia in November, injured a disc in his neck a month ago.
With backup scrumhalf Eoin Reddan only due to resume training on Tuesday and the relatively untested Kieran Marmion of Connacht waiting in the wings, Murray's return is a boost for coach Joe Schmidt, who will name his side on Thursday.
"I rehabbed it well, did a bit of contact on Friday in the Aviva (Stadium) and did a bit more yesterday and came through really well. I'm feeling good and fit to play," Murray said on the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) website on Tuesday.
While the remarkably durable number eight Jamie Heaslip is a minor doubt for Saturday's trip to Rome, Leinster team mates Sean O'Brien and Cian Healy have been included in the squad after long spells out with injury.
With Sexton only due to return from a 12-week enforced break from concussion for the Feb. 14 game against France and Ulster's Paddy Jackson out for the whole tournament, Murray will either team up with Munster team mate Ian Keatley or Leinster's Ian Madigan on Saturday.
"The two lads, the two Ians who are going for the 10 spot this weekend, have been in and out of the team in training. They have been getting their reps in and doing really well and I have no issue with whoever gets picked," the 25-year-old Murray said.
"The Italians are hugely strong at home and in their first game (of the tournament), you have seen that over the last few seasons. They have put together huge performances. We've got to be ready for that."