Rory Best has been chosen as the new Ireland captain
The Ulster hooker succeeds iconic Paul O’Connell
Joe Schmidt’s 35-man squad for the Six Nations includes four uncapped players.
Joe Schmidt has named Rory Best as Paul O’Connell’s successor as Ireland rugby captain and called up four uncapped players to his Six Nations squad.
Best, who will win his 90th cap when Ireland open their campaign against Wales on Feb. 7, takes over the captaincy from the legendary O’Connel,l who retired from international rugby after last year’s Rugby World Cup.
— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) January 20, 2016
Ireland have also named centre Stuart McCloskey and flanker CJ Stander among four uncapped players as they seek to win a third successive Six Nations championship.
Ireland squad for Six Nations games against Wales and France
Forwards: Rory Best (Ulster, captain), Richardt Strauss (Leinster), Rob Herring (Ulster), Sean Cronin (Leinster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), James Cronin (Munster), Ultan Dillane (Connacht), Nathan White (Connacht), Marty Moore (Leinster), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Mike McCarthy (Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Rhys Ruddock (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster), Sean O’Brien (Leinster), Tommy O’Donnell (Munster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster).
Backs: Conor Murray (Munster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Kieron Marmion (Connacht), Jonny Sexton (Leinster), Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Ian Madigan (Leinster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Jared Payne (Ulster), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster), Luke Marshall (Ulster), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster), Dave Kearney (Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), Simon Zebo (Munster).
Schmidt admitted injuries played a role in his selection, while Ulster’s Robbie Diack and Munster lock Dave Foley will be among those disappointed to have missed out.
“As always there were a number of tight decisions, especially with a number of players not being available to play in recent weeks,” he said.
“Stalwarts such as Mike Ross, Cian Healy and Chris Henry are all likely to return to play over the coming weeks and they, along with some of the other players not included will potentially return to the squad post these first two matches.
“There are a few new faces but at the same time we have resisted the temptation to include some of the very promising youngsters, allowing them a bit more time to develop as well as the opportunity of further game time with their provinces.”
Ireland will be without the injured trio of Iain Henderson, Tommy Bowe and Peter O’Mahony for the tournament. Mike Ross, Cian Healy and Chris Henry could return from injury for the final three matches.
Schmidt though also resisted the temptation to call up exciting Leinster centre Garry Ringrose, 20, he included club mate Josh van der Flier for the first time and fellow 22-year-old, Connacht’s Ultan Dillane, a surprise inclusion at lock.