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Joe Schmidt announces Ireland squad for the Six Nations

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Joe Schmidt has introduced four fresh faces to his 35-man squad for the Six Nations championship.

Ulster hooker, Rory Best was confirmed as the successor to former captain Paul O’Connell. Meanwhile, Connacht lock Ultan Dillane, Munster's back row forward CJ Stander, Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier and centre Stuart McCloskey of Ulster are the new names included.

Dillane managed to fend off competition from the likes of Dave Foley of Munster to fill the vacant spot left by Ulster lock, Dan Tuohy.

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While Josh Van der Flier will more than likely be acting as cover for the recovering Chris Henry, Sean O’Brien is expected to seize the starting spot. Van der Flier has impressed for Leinster at club level this season, however, and deserves his opportunity.

McCloskey and Stander's inclusions were not surprising, after making several strong appearances for Ulster and Munster respectively.

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Leinster captain Jamie Heaslip was named vice-captain to support Best, who has made 89 appearances at international level - scoring eight tries.

Ireland host Wales in Dublin on Sunday, February 7. The Ireland squad is crippled with injuries to key players including the likes of Tommy Bowe and Peter O’Mahony. However, Mike Ross, Cian Healy and Chris Henry, are likely to return over the coming weeks.

The Ireland squad has a nice blend of experience and youth. Schmidt knows his players will have to be at their best if they want to be competitive and retain the trophy.

Ireland v Argentina - Quarter Final: Rugby World Cup 2015

Ireland Squad:

Forwards: Rory Best (Ulster) (c), Sean Cronin (Leinster), James Cronin (Munster), Ultan Dillane (Connacht), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster) (vc), Rob Herring (Ulster), Mike McCarthy (Leinster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), Martin Moore (Leinster), Sean O'Brien (Leinster), Tommy O'Donnell (Munster), Rhys Ruddock (Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), CJ Stander (Munster), Richardt Strauss (Leinster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster), Nathan White (Connacht).

Backs: Keith Earls (Munster), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Paddy Jackson (Ulster), David Kearney (Leinster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), Ian Madigan (Leinster), Kieran Marmion (Connacht), Luke Marshall (Ulster), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster), Conor Murray (Munster), Jared Payne (Ulster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Simon Zebo (Munster).

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Topics:
Six Nations
Ireland Rugby
Rugby Union
Rory Best

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