O'Connell named as Ireland captain
Paul O'Connell will captain Ireland in this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship, the Irish Rugby Football Union have announced.
Ireland coach Declan Kidney has turned to Munster lock O'Connell in the absence of regular skipper Brian O'Driscoll, who will miss the entire tournament as he recovers from shoulder surgery.
O'Connell was captain of the 2009 British and Irish Lions in South Africa, and he will take the Ireland reins for their Six Nations opener against Wales in Dublin on February 5.
The Ireland squad began preparations for the championship on Friday with a two-day training camp near Dublin.
Current Munster captain O'Connell has led his country in the past, initially against France in 2004, and also when Ireland played England during their World Cup warm-up series four months ago.
O'Connell said: "The greatest ambition in a player's career is to play for your country, so to captain Ireland is a huge honour for me and I was delighted when Declan asked me to.
"I have been lucky to have played for my country on 82 occasions, and during that time I have always felt that the responsibility of leadership should not just rest on the shoulders of Brian and that the senior players are incredibly important.
"We are lucky in the Ireland squad that we have a couple of outstanding leaders across the pitch, and I know that I will be relying on them during the championship.
"I think the squad is in a good place at the moment with the majority of the provinces going well in Europe and in the RaboDirect Pro12. So it's a case of players continuing to play well to get themselves into a position to be selected in that first squad, and then working hard for what I think will be an ultra-competitive Six Nations.
"It was good to come back together for the first time since the World Cup, and I am now just looking forward to February and to the challenge of the championship."