France currently lead the Six Nations standings on points difference from the Irish and third-placed England, but their lead is slim - plus 42 points to Ireland's plus 38.
If Brian O'Driscoll's side can notch up a significant score in Rome then they will increase the pressure on Les Bleus when they face Scotland soon after.
Ireland will be without talismanic second row Paul O'Connell, out with a thumb injury, but are otherwise unchanged from the side that struggled to victory over Scotland last weekend.
Mick O'Driscoll replaces O'Connell and wins his ninth cap.
Italy are looking for their third win of the tournament but are also missing their talismanic flanker Mauro Bergamasco.
The Stade Francais forward is suspended for four weeks for a punch on Wales skipper Stephen Jones last weekend and is replaaced by Mairizio Zaffiri.
Experienced prop Andrea Lo Cicero is also absent with flu and his place goes to Salvatore Perugini, while centre Gonzalo Canale has a thigh injury and is replaced by Ezio Galon.
Ireland have won their last four encounters in Rome but were made to fight all the way two years ago before winning 28-17.
Scrum-half Peter Stringer says they will be taking nothing for granted.
"We've an earlier kick-off and an opportunity to go out and put in a big performance," Stringer said.
"Firstly, we've got to go in with the mentality that we're going to win it - go in with that mindset - and hopefully if the scores come, we can look to put some points on.
"It's going to be a very difficult challenge, we're fully aware of that. It's a matter of winning the game first of all but it's a great position to be in.
"We know how tough it is over in Italy, particularly with their heads up now after a couple of victories. They'll be fairly full of confidence.
"It should prove to be a great encounter and that's what the championship is all about. It's wide open going into the last day.
Due to an error in the Italian Rugby Federation's ticket selling procedures, 17,000 Irish fans will be in the Stadion Flamino to cheer their team on.
As thew Rome stadium has a capacity of only 25,000, it will effectively be like a home fixture for the Irish.
Italy: Roland De Marigny (Calvisano); Kaine Robertson (Arix Viadana), Ezio Galon (Overmach Cariparma), Mirco Bergamasco (Stade Francais), Matteo Pratichetti (Calvisano); Ramiro Pez (Bayonne), Alessandro Troncon (Clermont); Salvatore Perugini (Toulouse), Carlo Festuccia (Gran Parma), Carlos Nieto (Gloucester); Santiago Dellape (Biarritz), Marco Bortolami (Gloucester, capt), Alessandro Zanni (Calvisano), Maurizio Zaffiri (Calvisano), Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais).
Replacements: Leonardo Ghiraldini (Calvisano), Fabio Staibano (Overmach Parma), Valerio Bernabo (Calvisano), Josh Sole (Arix Viadana), Paul Griffen (Calvisano), Andrea Scanavacca (Calvisano), Matteo Barbini (Treviso).
Ireland: Girvan Dempsey (Leinster); Shane Horgan (Leinster), Brian O'Driscoll (Leinster, capt), Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster), Denis Hickie (Leinster); Ronan O'Gara (Munster), Peter Stringer (Munster); Denis Leamy (Munster), David Wallace (Munster), Simon Easterby (Llanelli), Mick O'Driscoll (Munster), Donncha O'Callaghan (Munster), John Hayes (Munster), Rory Best (Ulster), Marcus Horan (Munster) or Simon Best (Ulster).
Replacements: Jerry Flannery (Munster), Simon Best (Ulster) or Bryan Young (Ulster), Trevor Hogan (Munster), Neil Best (Ulster), Eoin Reddan (Wasps), Paddy Wallace (Ulster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster).