Sexton named Ireland captain in Farrell’s first squad

Johnny Sexton will captain Ireland in the upcoming Guinness Six Nations, as Andy Farrell named a 35-man squad for his first Championship in charge.

Johnny Sexton will captain Ireland in the upcoming Guinness Six Nations, as Andy Farrell named a 35-man squad for his first Championship in charge.

Sexton replaces Rory Best as skipper after the hooker retired following Ireland’s exit from the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.

Sexton has been out for a month with a knee injury but is expected to be fit for Ireland’s Championship opener against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium.

With back-up fly-half Joey Carbery also injured, there is a first call-up for Ulster’s Billy Burns who is one of five uncapped players in the squad.

Tom O’Toole and the Leinster trio of Max Deegan, Caelan Doris and Ronan Kelleher are also hoping to make their international bows, while there is a recall for veteran lock Devin Toner, who was left out of the World Cup squad.

Toner benefits from Tadhg Beirne’s injury, with the Munster forward currently injured with a fractured ankle, while fellow veteran Dave Kearney is also back in the fold.

Farrell has also picked four development players in Ryan Baird, Robert Baloucoune, Harry Byrne and Will Connors. They will train with the full squad at the warm-weather camp in Portugal prior to the Scotland match.

Farrell said: “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.

“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.

“We have appointed Johnny as captain for the Six Nations, you can see what it means to him and the enthusiasm he will bring to the role. He has been developing as a leader for a number of years with Ireland, Leinster and the Lions and he will be a positive voice for the group.”

Max Deegan (Lansdowne/Leinster) 0 caps Caelan Doris (UCD/Leinster) 0 caps Ultan Dillane (Corinthians/Connacht) 14 caps Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 41 caps Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 95 caps Dave Heffernan (Buccaneers/Connacht) 1 cap Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster) 53 caps Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 8 caps Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster) 0 caps Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster) 36 caps Jack McGrath (St Mary’s College/Ulster) 56 caps Jack O’Donoghue (UL Bohemians/Munster) 2 caps Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 64 caps Tom O’Toole (Banbridge/Ulster) 0 caps Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 23 caps James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 23 caps CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster) 38 caps Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 67 caps Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 23 caps

Will Addison (Enniskillen/Ulster) 4 caps Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 23 caps Billy Burns (Ulster) 0 caps Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster) 3 caps Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 18 caps John Cooney (Terenure College/Ulster) 8 caps Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 82 caps Chris Farrell (Young Munster/Munster) 9 caps Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 40 caps Dave Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster) 19 caps Jordan Larmour (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 21 caps Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) 19 caps Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 78 caps Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 28 caps Jonathan Sexton (St Marys College/Leinster) 88 caps CAPTAIN Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster) 25 caps

Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster) Robert Baloucoune (Enniskillen/Ulster) Harry Byrne (Lansdowne/Leinster) Will Connors (UCD/Leinster).