Johnny Sexton named new Ireland captain as Andy Farrell selects five uncapped players in Six Nations squad
Johnny Sexton is the new Ireland captain after the out-half was confirmed as the man to lead the team into the 2020 Six Nations.
New Ireland head coach Andy Farrell named his 35-man squad this afternoon - along with four 'development players' - with Sexton's captaincy and the return of Devin Toner among the top storylines.
Sexton previously captained Ireland against Russia at the 2019 World Cup, and will take over from Rory Best, who retired after the tournament.
Speaking to IrishRugby.ie about his appointment as captain, Johnny said:
"First of all it’s a massive honour to be asked to do it and I obviously got a taste for it during the World Cup for that one game and I’ve done it in patches with Ireland in-game when either Rory or Pete have gone off in previous games. It’s something that I enjoy but ultimately it’s a huge honour the biggest honour of my career to be asked to do it and I’m really looking forward to it and looking forward to the challenges that are coming up and hopefully we can have a successful 6 Nations now."
Farrell has also brought veteran second row Toner back into the fold after missing out on World Cup selection, while also freshening things up with five uncapped players.
Leinster trio Ronan Kelleher, Max Deegan and Caelan Doris and Ulster pair Billy Burns and Tom O'Toole are the new faces named in Farrell's inaugural Six Nations squad.
Dave Kearney's strong form for Leinster has seen him included among the back three players, while brother Rob is one of the big names to miss out.
Hooker Sean Cronin and flankers Jordi Murphy and Rhys Ruddock are three of the other established internationals who have not been included.
From the 45-man panel that was selected for the Christmas training camp, 11 players have missed the cut for the Six Nations squad - Caolin Blade and Ultan Dillane (Connacht), Jamison Gibson-Park and Rhys Ruddock (Leinster), Joey Carbery, Mike Haley, Jean Kleyn, Niall Scannell and Rory Scannell (Munster) and Stuart McCloskey and Marty Moore (Ulster).
"At the get-together in December we challenged the players to put their hands up for selection and the coaches are really pleased with the performances in recent weeks," said Farrell.
"As we progress through the Championship we will look to select sides that we believe are best suited to the task at the weekend.
"We will keep a close eye on the provincial performances in the PRO14, not just for the players in the squad that will transition back for game minutes, but also for those players that were part of the wider selection discussions over the past few weeks."
Leinster flanker Will Connors wasn't included in the official 35-man selection despite training over Christmas, but is listed alongside Leinster team-mates Ryan Baird and Harry Byrne and Ulster wing Robert Baloucoune as 'Development Players'.
"The provinces are doing a great job in developing young talent and we feel there is an opportunity in the national set-up to support that work and get a better insight into some young players that have put in strong performances for their provinces.
"Ryan, Will, Harry and Robert will be the first ones to join the squad in this development role."
Ireland Six Nations squad (35):
Props (6) - Cian Healy, Dave Kilcoyne, Jack McGrath, Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Porter, Tom O'Toole.
Hookers (3) - Dave Heffernan, Rob Herring, Ronan Kelleher.
Second rows (4) - James Ryan, Devin Toner, Iain Henderson, Ultan Dillane.
Back rows (6) - Jack O'Donoghue, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris, Max Deegan, Peter O'Mahony, CJ Stander.
Scrum-halves (3) - Conor Murray, John Cooney, Luke McGrath.
Out-halves (3) - Johnny Sexton (C), Ross Byrne, Billy Burns.
Centres (4) - Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Chris Farrell.
Back three (6) - Jordan Larmour, Dave Kearney, Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Jacob Stockdale, Will Addison.
Development players (4) - Will Connors, Harry Byrne, Ryan Baird, Robert Baloucoune.
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