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Best named Ireland captain for Six Nations

Rory Best will captain Ireland during the Six Nations after head coach Joe Schmidt named his 35-man squad for the opening two rounds of the competition.

The Ulster will be assisted by Leinster No.8 Jamie Heaslip who has been named vice-captain while four players will be looking to make their Test debut over the next few weeks.

There are three uncapped players in the forwards, Connacht’s Ultan Dillane, Munster captain CJ Stander and Leinster’s Josh Van Der Flier, while Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey is the only back not to have played at international level.

Ireland will begin their campaign hosting Wales on Sunday 7th February at a sold out Aviva Stadium before travelling to Paris the following weekend.

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 RBS 6 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 squad:

Forwards: Rory Best (Ulster, captain), Richardt Strauss (Leinster), Rob Herring (Ulster), 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), Jordi Murphy (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).

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