Sexton new Irish captain as squad named for Six Nations

Johnny Sexton will captain Ireland in the upcoming Six Nations Championship.

The experienced fly-half takes on the role, following the retirement of former skipper Rory Best after the World Cup.

Leinster trio Ronan Kelleher, Caelan Doris and Max Deegan are among the potential Test debutants selected for the tournament, along with Ulster pair Billy Burns and Tom O’Toole.

Sexton, who has won 88 caps, has not played since suffering a knee injury while in action for Leinster in early December but, according to his club side, is making “good progress” in his recovery.

The 34-year-old’s only previous experience of captaining his country came in October, during the World Cup pool stage win over Russia.

New head coach Andy Farrell told the Irish Rugby Football Union: “We have appointed Johnny as captain for the Six Nations Championship.

“You can see what it means to him and the enthusiasm he will bring to the role.

“He has been developing as a leader for a number of years with Ireland, Leinster and the Lions – and he will be a positive voice for the group.”

Andy Farrell is preparing for his first game as head coach.

Sexton said: “First of all it’s a massive honour to be asked to do it.

“I obviously got a taste for it during the World Cup for that one game and I’ve done it in patches with Ireland in-game when either Rory or Pete (O’Mahony) have gone off.

“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 looking forward to the challenges that are coming up.

“Hopefully we can have a successful Six Nations.”

Leinster lock Devin Toner, capped 67 times, returns to the fold after his shock omission from the World Cup squad picked by former coach Joe Schmidt.

As expected, injured Munster fly-half Joey Carbery has not made the cut because of a wrist ligament problem.

Ireland begin the tournament on Saturday, February 1 at home to Scotland.

Ireland’s 2020 Six Nations squad:

Forwards:Max Deegan, Caelan Doris, Ultan Dillane, Tadgh Furlong, Cian Healy, Dave Heffernan, Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Jack McGrath, Jack O’Donoghue, Peter O’Mahony, Tom O’Toole, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, CJ Stander, Devin Toner, Josh van der Flier

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

Development players: Ryan Baird, Robert Baloucoune, Harry Byrne, Will Connors

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