18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
The uncapped Leinster duo of Cian Healy and Jonathan Sexton have been named in their first Ireland senior squad having both progressed from Ireland Schools to the Under-20s to senior provincial representation.
The Irish squad also shows some further changes in the forwards with Munster prop Tony Buckley earning his first call-up to a Six Nations squad. Leo Cullen also returns after missing out on selection for the Rugby World Cup, as do his Leinster team-mates Jamie Heaslip and Bernard Jackman.
The backr ow continues to be one of the most competitive areas with Johnny O'Connor just edging out Keith Gleeson. The Galway man is included in a Six Nations squad for the first time since 2006. Second row Mick O'Driscoll also comes into the 33-man squad.
In addition to uncapped out-half Sexton being one of the 15 backs named in the squad, Robert Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald and Tommy Bowe are all added to the back division for the tournament.
Commenting on the selection, Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan said: "First and foremost I feel this squad reflects the form of the players in the Heineken Cup and Magners League and I am excited to introduce some young blood into the mix for the Six nations.
"Some of the younger players have really put their hands up through their performances and have earned their spot in the squad. At the same time, it again threw up some tight calls, especially in the back row which always seems to be the same every time we select a squad. However, I think we have the balance right going into the championship."
Commenting on the championship itself, he added: "The Six Nations represents a great opportunity for the squad to get back to the standards we have achieved in the past.
"It is the tournament that we always want to do well in and this year's championship is really open with no clear favourites. So it really is a case of only looking forward to your next game, which starts (for us) with an Italy side who always begin the tournament well."
IRELAND 2008 RBS 6 NATIONS SQUAD -
Neil Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
Rory Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster)
Leo Cullen (Blackrock College/Leinster)
Simon Easterby (Llanelli Scarlets)
Jerry Flannery (Shannon/Munster)
John Hayes (Bruff/Munster)
Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
Jamie Heaslip (Clontarf/Leinster)
Marcus Horan (Shannon/Munster)
Bernard Jackman (Clontarf/Leinster)
Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Donncha O'Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Johnny O'Connor (Corinthians/Connacht)
Mick O'Driscoll (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Malcolm O'Kelly (St. Mary's College/Leinster)
Alan Quinlan (Shannon/Munster)
David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster)
Tommy Bowe (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
Girvan Dempsey (Terenure College/Leinster)
Gordon D'Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Gavin Duffy (Galwegians/Connacht)
Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster)
Shane Horgan (Boyne/Leinster)
Robert Kearney (UCD/Leinster)
Geordan Murphy (Leicester Tigers)
Brian O'Driscoll (UCD/Leinster)
Ronan O'Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Eoin Reddan (London Wasps)
Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary's College/Leinster)
Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster)
Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster)
Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster)
NOT CONSIDERED DUE TO INJURY:
Simon Best (Belfast Harlequins)
Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster)
Paul O'Connell (Young Munster/Munster)