Eight Ulster players get call-ups as Andy Farrell names first Ireland squad for Six Nations
Andy Farrell has named eight Ulstermen in his first Ireland squad after confirming his panel for the upcoming Six Nations Championship.
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There are first call-ups for Billy Burns and Tom O'Toole, while there is an inclusion for loosehead prop Jack McGrath, who was not named in the original stock-take squad last month.
As expected, star scrum-half John Cooney is included and is expected to be in with a real shot at starting Ireland's opening game against Scotland on February 1.
Rob Herring and Will Addison also link up with the squad, despite the question marks over the latter's latest injury scare.
Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale are both retained from Joe Schmidt's final squad for the World Cup, of which there are 21 survivors.
However, there is no place for either tighthead prop Marty Moore, despite being ahead of O'Toole in the Ulster pecking order, or centre Stuart McCloskey, who has been in a rich vein of form.
There's also no room for Jordi Murphy, who was omitted from Farrell's stock-take squad last month and has failed to make the cut this time as well.
Murphy misses out at the expense of exciting Leinster back row duo of Max Deegan and Caelan Doris, all three of whom receive their first call-ups to the squad.
Leinster's Academy hooker Rónan Kelleher is also included after his whirlwind start to the season, with the 21-year-old set to battle it out with Herring and Dave Heffernan for game-time.
Alongside McCloskey and Moore, other notable omissions include Connacht scrum-half Caolin Blade, Leinster's Jamison Gibson Park, Dave Kearney and Rhys Ruddock, and the Scannell brothers Niall and Rory.
A 'changing of the guard' approach has also seen Farrell exclude players such as Seán Cronin and Rob Kearney, both of whom went to the World Cup but fail to feature this time.
Locks Jean Kleyn and Quinn Roux and fly-half Joey Carbery are among those who were at Farrell's stock-take in December but were not considered due to injury.
One other Ulster inclusion sees winger Robert Baloucoune included in the squad as a "development" player, meaning he will head to Portugal for the team's warm weather training camp.
He's joined by a trio of Leinster players who also go on "development" assignments, lock Ryan Baird, flanker Will Connors and fly-half Harry Byrne.
Head coach Farrell also confirmed that fly-half Jonathan Sexton will take over from Rory Best as captain following the latter's retirement after the World Cup.
Ireland begin their Six Nations campaign with a home tie against Scotland on February 1, followed by Wales' trip to the Aviva Stadium a week later on February 8.
A trip to face England at Twickenham follows on February 23, with Ireland concluding their tournament at home to Italy on March 7 and away to France on March 14.
Ireland squad for the Six Nations Championship (development players in italics)
Loosehead props: Cian Healy (Leinster), Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Jack McGrath (Ulster)
Hookers: Dave Heffernan (Connacht), Rob Herring (Ulster), Rónan Kelleher (Leinster)
Tighthead props: Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Tom O'Toole (Ulster), Andrew Porter (Leinster)
Locks: Ryan Baird (Leinster), Ultan Dillane (Connacht), Iain Henderson (Ulster), James Ryan (Leinster), Devin Toner (Leinster)
Back rows: Will Connors (Leinster), Max Deegan (Leinster), Caelan Doris (Leinster), Jack O'Donoghue (Munster), Peter O'Mahony (Munster), CJ Stander (Munster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster)
Scrum halves: John Cooney (Ulster), Luke McGrath (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster)
Fly halves: Billy Burns (Ulster), Harry Byrne (Leinster), Ross Byrne (Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster)
Inside centres: Bundee Aki (Connacht), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster)
Outside centres: Chris Farrell (Munster), Garry Ringrose (Leinster)
Wingers: Robert Baloucoune (Ulster), Andrew Conway (Munster), Keith Earls (Munster), Dave Kearney (Leinster), Jacob Stockdale (Ulster)
Full backs: Will Addison (Ulster), Jordan Larmour (Leinster)
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