Frenchman Pierre Brousset had been set to take charge of the round two fixture and make a championship debut with the whistle, but was forced to withdraw with a calf issue.
The 36-year-old started his officating journey in Devon at the age of 16, and was refereeing in the second tier Championship by the age of 21.
A promotion to the Premiership swiftly followed before a step-up to Test level in February 2013.
The depth in English refereeing has occasionally held Pearce back, though his highly communicative style and preference for pace are well liked by players.
He took charge of his first Premiership final last year, overseeing Saracens’ win over Sale at Twickenham, before being one of four English referees at the World Cup in the autumn.
Brousset had been set to count on the support of a team of compatriots on Six Nations debut, with Pearce now leading an otherwise-all French team.
The experienced Mathieu Raynal will be on hand to help as an assistant referee, with Luc Ramos and TMO Eric Gauzins completing the officiating line-up.
Ireland vs Italy match officials
Referee: Luke Pearce (Eng)
ARs: Mathieu Raynal (Fra) & Luc Ramos (Fra)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (Fra)