Rugby Johnny Sexton confirmed as new Ireland captain for Six Nations

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Johnny Sexton follows the recent trend of 30-plus Ireland captains, following Rory Best and Paul O’Connell, as new head coach Andy Farrell confirmed the 34-year-old will lead his country in the upcoming Six Nations.

“We have appointed Johnny as captain for the Six Nations championship,” said Farrell. “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.”

Rhys Ruddock is a surprise omission from the 35-man squad that includes five uncapped players – Ronán Kelleher, Max Deegan, Caelan Doris, Billy Burns and Ulster prop Tom O’Toole – in an otherwise established group of internationals.

Munster backrow Jack O’Donoghue – in the form of his life – makes the cut at Ruddock’s expense.

Four “development players” – Ulster wing Robert Baloucoune, and Leinster trio lock Ryan Baird, outhalf Harry Byrne and openside Will Connors – will train with the squad in Portugal.

“At the get-together in December we challenged the players to put their hands up for selection and the coaches are really pleased with the performances in recent weeks,” said Farrell.”

“The provinces are doing a great job in developing young talent and we feel there is an opportunity in the national set-up to support that work and get a better insight into some young players that have put in strong performances for their provinces.

“Ryan, Will, Harry and Robert will be the first ones to join the squad in this development role.”

The All Blacks have been doing this for several years.

Rugby Leinster backrow Caelan is one of five uncapped players in Andy Farrell’s 35-strong squad for the Six Nations. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Leinster backrow Caelan is one of five uncapped players in Andy Farrell’s 35-strong squad for the Six Nations. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

What’s also clear from Farrell’s selection is the Englishman is only focusing on delivering a successful Six Nations campaign.

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