Sexton named Ireland captain in Farrell's first Six Nations squad


Dublin (AFP)

Talismanic fly-half Johnny Sexton was on Wednesday named as Ireland captain for the forthcoming Six Nations campaign by new head coach Andy Farrell.

The 34-year-old former world player of the year replaces hooker Rory Best, who retired after Ireland's disappointing quarter-final exit at last year's World Cup.

There are five uncapped players in Farrell's first squad since he took over from Joe Schmidt, who like Best stepped aside following the World Cup after a successful tenure.

The uncapped quintet are Ulster's Billy Burns and Tom O'Toole and the Leinster trio of Max Deegan, Caelan Doris and Ronan Kelleher.

Fly-half Burns was a member of the England side that won the Under-20 world title in 2014 but qualifies for Ireland through his grandfather.

Sexton, who failed to shine at the World Cup in Japan, said being made captain was the "biggest honour" of his career.

"I've done it in patches with Ireland in-game when either Rory or Pete (O'Mahony) have gone off in previous games," he said.

"It's something that I enjoy but ultimately it's a huge honour, the biggest honour of my career, to be asked to do it and I'm really looking forward to it and the challenges that are coming up."

Farrell, who was Ireland defence coach under Schmidt, said Sexton had developed as a team leader in recent seasons.

"You can see what it means to him and the enthusiasm he will bring to the role," said Farrell.

"He has been developing as a leader for a number of years with Ireland, Leinster and the (British and Irish) Lions and he will be a positive voice for the group."

Farrell said he would select teams according to the different challenges each rival posed.

Ireland open their Six Nations campaign against Scotland in Dublin on February 1, with a home game against Wales the following week.

"As we progress through the championship we will look to select sides that we believe are best suited to the task at the weekend," said Farrell.

"We will keep a close eye on the provincial performances in the Pro14 not just for the players in the squad that will transition back for game minutes but also for those players that were part of the wider selection discussions over the past few weeks," added the 44-year-old Englishman.

Ireland squad


Max Deegan (Leinster), Caelan Doris (Leinster), Ultan Dillane (Connacht), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Dave Heffernan (Connacht), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Rob Herring (Ulster), Ronan Kelleher (Leinster), Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Jack McGrath (Ulster), Jack O'Donoghue (Munster), Peter O'Mahony (Munster), Tom O'Toole (Ulster), Andrew Porter (Leinster), James Ryan (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster)

Backs: Will Addison (Ulster), Bundee Aki (Connacht), Billy Burns (Ulster), Ross Byrne (Leinster), Andrew Conway (Munster), John Cooney (Ulster), Keith Earls (Munster), Chris Farrell (Munster), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), Dave Kearney (Leinster), Jordan Larmour (Leinster), Luke McGrath (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster), Garry Ringrose (Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/capt), Jacob Stockdale (Ulster)