Ireland name Best as captain

Date published: January 20 2016

Joe Schmidt has named Ulster hooker Rory Best as the new Ireland captain following the retirement of Paul O'Connell.

The Ireland coaching group have named a 35-man squad for the opening two rounds of the Six Nations Championship.

Best will captain the team with Jamie Heaslip named as vice-captain.

There are three uncapped players in the forwards – Connacht's Ultan Dillane, Munster captain CJ Stander and Leinster's Josh Van Der Flier.

Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey is the other uncapped player in the squad and is named as one of the 16 backs included.

Ireland will host Wales in Eound 1 of the Six Nations on Sunday, February 7, at a sold-out Aviva Stadium. In Round 2 Ireland travel to Paris to take on France at the Stade de France.

Ireland head coach Schmidt commented: "As always there were a number of tight decisions, especially with a number of players not being available to play in recent weeks.

"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.

"With plenty of new personnel involved the Six Nations is going to be incredibly challenging and the players selected will know they will need to be at their best to be competitive."

Ireland Six Nations squad

Forwards: Rory Best (c), Sean Cronin, James Cronin, Ultan Dillane, Tadhg Furlong, Jamie Heaslip (vc), Rob Herring, Mike McCarthy, Jack McGrath, Martin Moore, Sean O'Brien, Tommy O'Donnell, Rhys Ruddock, Donnacha Ryan, CJ Stander, Richardt Strauss, Devin Toner, Josh van der Flier, Nathan White.

Backs: Keith Earls, Luke Fitzgerald, Robbie Henshaw, Paddy Jackson, David Kearney, Rob Kearney, Ian Madigan, Kieran Marmion, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Conor Murray, Jared Payne, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Andrew Trimble, Simon Zebo.