The Ireland management team have named a 35-man squad for the opening two rounds of the 2016 RBS 6 Nations Championship. Rory Best will captain the squad which includes four uncapped players.
Rory 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.
Meanwhile, Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey is the other uncapped player in the squad and is named as one of sixteen backs.
Ireland will host Wales in round 1 of the RBS 6 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 Joe 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.”
The Ireland team will host two open training sessions during the RBS 6 Nations where supporters can watch the team train and meet the players.
The first open session takes place in the Aviva Stadium on Friday, January 29, with the second taking place in Mullingar RFC on Friday, February 19.
Tickets for the Aviva Stadium open session are available now on a first come first served basis on ticketmaster.ie
Players unavailable for selection due to long term injury include: Tommy Bowe, Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony and Dan Tuohy.
IRELAND SQUAD (2016 RBS 6 NATIONS ROUNDS 1 & 2):
Backs (16) –
Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster)
Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster)
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster)
David Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster)
Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster)
Kieran Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht)
Luke Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster)
Stuart McCloskey (Ballynahinch/Ulster) *
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster)
Jared Payne (Ulster)
Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster)
Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Forwards (19) –
Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) (capt)
Sean Cronin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
James Cronin (Dolphin/Munster)
Ultan Dillane (Corinthians/Connacht) *
Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster)
Jamie Heaslip (Dublin University/Leinster) (vice-capt)
Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Mike McCarthy (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Jack McGrath (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Martin Moore (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Sean O’Brien (UCD/Leinster)
Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster)
CJ Stander (Munster) *
Richardt Strauss (Old Wesley/Leinster)
Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) *
Nathan White (Connacht)
* Denotes uncapped player