Six Nations 2016: Rory Best Named New Ireland Captain
January 21, 2016 Emma Patterson 0 Comments
Yesterday Joe Schmidt announced that Ulster hooker Rory Best, 33, will take up the Irish Rugby captaincy. Best won his fist cap in 2005 and has made 89 appearances for Ireland since then, including captaining the side on four occasions. The vacancy was created in the wake of Paul O’Connell’s retirement from Test duty following The World Cup, and with back-to-back Six Nations titles to defend, expectations will be high. Leinster number eight Jamie Heaslip has been named Vice-Captain.
The Irish Head Coach also gave the nod to four uncapped players; Munster’s CJ Stander, Connacht’s Ultan Dillane, Leinster’s Josh van der Flier and Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey. Fans will be pleased at the inclusion of McCloskey, as the 23 year old has made a big impact for the Ulstermen this season. Ulster’s promising form in Europe has been rewarded will call-ups for winger Andrew Trimble, centre Luke Marshall and hooker Rob Herring.
Several players are unavailable for selection due to long-term injuries, including Tommy Bowe, Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony and Dan Tuohy. Schmidt also stated that a number of players had to be left out of the 35-man squad at this stage due to fitness concerns, including Leinster props Cian Healy and Mike Ross, but that they could feature later in the tournament.
He said, “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 Championship is going to be incredibly challenging and the players selected will know they will need to be at their best to be competitive.”
Ireland will kick off their Six Nations campaign by hosting Wales in Dublin, on Sunday 7th February, followed by a trip to the Stade de France on Saturday 13th February. The 35-man squad for the first two rounds of the competition is;
Forwards: Rory Best (Ulster, Captain), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster, Vice-Captain), Devin Toner (Leinster), Sean O’Brien (Leinster), Richardt Strauss (Leinster), Rob Herring (Ulster), Sean Cronin (Leinster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), James Cronin (Munster), Ultan Dillane (Connacht), Mike McCarthy (Leinster), Nathan White (Connacht), Tommy O’Donnell (Munster), Marty Moore (Leinster), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Rhys Ruddock (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster)
Backs: Keith Earls (Munster) Conor Murray (Munster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Simon Zebo (Munster), Kieron Marmion (Connacht), Dave Kearney (Leinster), Jonny Sexton (Leinster), Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Ian Madigan (Leinster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Jared Payne (Ulster), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster), Luke Marshall (Ulster), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster)