Andy Farrell named his much changed Six Nations squad yesterday with only twenty one of ex coach Joe Schmidt’s squad making the cut.
He named Johnny Sexton as captain for Ireland succeeding Ulster’s Rory Best for the Six Nations starting next month. The Leinster fly-half is picked up a knee injury last month so it’s doubtful he will start the campaign but is still named in the squad. Sexton first captained Ireland during the World Cup but has long since had a strong leadership role in the team.
Farrell also named eight Ulster players in his 35 man strong squad, scrum-half John Cooney, Rob Herring and Will Addison have been included, despite the question marks over Addison’s latest injury scare.
With Rory Best’s spot now vacant, Ulster’s Rob Herring will battle with Dave Heffernan and Leinster youngster Ronan Kelleher for the starting spot.
Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale also keep their place and Billy Burns and Tom O’Toole get their first call up for Ireland Senior squad . O’Toole was a surprise selection among the front row forwards, but it does reflect the province’s strong start to the campaign.
Ulster’s loosehead prop Jack McGrath, who was not named in the original stock-take squad last month has also secured his place.
Unfortunately for tighthead prop Marty Moore there is no place for him, despite being ahead of O’Toole in the Ulster pecking order, or centre Stuart McCloskey, who has been in fantastic form. Jordi Murphy has also failed to gain a place in the squad due to Leinster back row duo of Max Deegan and Caelan Doris.
Ireland begin their Six Nations campaign at home next week against Scotland on February 1, followed by Wales’ trip to the Aviva Stadium a week later on February 8.
A trip to face England at Twickenham follows on February 23, with Ireland concluding their tournament at home to Italy on March 7 and away to France on March 14.
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