Rory Best named new Ireland captain as Schmidt gives Six Nations call to four new players
RORY Best has been named as the new Ireland captain as Joe Schmidt revealed his squad for the upcoming RBS Six Nations.
The Ulster skipper, 33, has previously stood in as captain for his country and was today named as Joe Schmidt’s replacement for the retired Paul O’Connell.
Best will lead a squad that includes four uncapped players. Young Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey, flankers CJ Stander and Josh van der Flier, and Connacht lock Ultan Dillane are all named on the 35-man squad.
McCloskey is one of seven Ulster players on the 35-man squad, with Rob Herring, Paddy Jackson, Luke Marshall, Jared Payne and Andrew Trimble all included.
However, there is no place for Darren Cave, while Tommy Bowe and Iain Henderson remain on the injured list.
Experienced props Mike Ross and Cian Healy, and back-row Chris Henry have been left off the initial squad owing to injuries, but they could be introduced during the tournament.
Peter O’Mahony – who had been regarded as a potential captain – has failed to overcome his injury woes, while Leinster’s Jordi Murphy is dropped as Schmidt introduces CJ Stander and Josh van der Flier.
Leinster’s Garry Ringrose, whose impressive breakthrough had led to calls for his inclusion, is not included on a squad that will see Jamie Heaslip act as vice-captain to Best.
In total, there are nine of the 31-man squad that travelled to last Autumn’s World Cup missing, including retired former captain Paul O’Connell.
Ireland host Warren Gatland’s Wales in their opening game on Sunday 7 February at a sold out Aviva Stadium before travelling to Paris to take on France.
They have the luxury of three home games, with the third round trip to Twickenham their other away tie.
Best becomes the first Ulster player to captain Ireland on a permanent basis since Paddy Johns skippered them for ten games between June 1998 and April 1999.
Rory Best has captained them four times in the past, while his elder brother Simon captained his country for two games in 2007. David Humphreys also skippered the side five times between 2002 and 2005.
Video: Rory Best reacts to his captaincy
Forwards: Rory Best, Rob Herring, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Jamie Heaslip, Mike McCarthy, Jack McGrath, Martin Moore, Sean O'Brien, Rhys Ruddock, Richardt Strauss, Devin Toner, Josh van der Flier, James Cronin, Tommy O'Donnell, Donnacha Ryan, CJ Stander, Ultan Dillane, Nathan White
Backs: Paddy Jackson, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Jared Payne, Andrew Trimble, Keith Earls, Conor Murray, Simon Zebo, Luke Fitzgerald, Dave Kearney, Rob Kearney, Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Kieran Marmion, Robbie Henshaw