Rory Best to captain Ireland as seven Ulster players named in Six Nations squad
Ulster's Rory Best will captain Ireland's squad for the opening two rounds of the 2016 RBS Six Nations Championship.
Best will captain the 35 man squad which includes seven fellow Ulster men.
He is joined on the team by Rob Herring, Paddy Jackson, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Andrew Trimble and Jared Payne.
Jamie Heaslip has been named as vice captain.
There are three uncapped players in the forwards - Connacht's Ultan Dillane, Munster captain CJ Stander and Leinster's Josh Van Der Flier.
Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey is the other uncapped player in the squad and is named as one of the sixteen backs included.
Ireland will host Wales in round 1 of the RBS 6 Nations on Sunday February 7 at a sold out Aviva Stadium.
In round 2 Ireland travel to Paris to take on France at the Stade de France.
Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt 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 RBS 6 Nations is going to be incredibly challenging and the players selected will know they will need to be at their best to be competitive."
The Ireland team will host two open training sessions during the RBS 6 Nations where supporters can watch the team train and meet the players.
The first open session takes place in the Aviva Stadium on Friday January 29 with the second taking place in Mullingar RFC on Friday February 19.
Tickets for the Aviva Stadium open session are available now on a first come first served basis on ticketmaster.ie
Players unavailable for selection due to long term injury include: Tommy Bowe, Iain Henderson, Peter O'Mahony and Dan Tuohy.
Ireland Squad RBS 6 Nations 2016 Rounds 1 & 2
Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) Captain
Sean Cronin (St. Mary's College/Leinster)
James Cronin (Dolphin/Munster)
Ultan Dillane (Corinthians/Connacht)*
Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster)
Jamie Heaslip (Dublin University/Leinster) Vice Captain
Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Mike McCarthy (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Jack McGrath (St. Mary's College/Leinster)
Martin Moore (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Sean O'Brien (UCD/Leinster)
Tommy O'Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Rhys Ruddock (St Mary's College/Leinster)
Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster)
CJ Stander (Munster)*
Richardt Strauss (Old Wesley/Leinster)
Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster)*
Nathan White (Connacht)
Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster)
Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster)
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster)
David Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster)
Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster)
Kieran Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht)
Luke Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster)
Stuart McCloskey (McCloskey/Ulster)*
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster)
Jared Payne (Ulster)
Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Jonathan Sexton (St Mary's College/Leinster)
Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster)
Simon Zebo (Cork Con/Munster)
*Denotes uncapped player
Belfast Telegraph Digital