Ireland name Sexton as new captain

New captain Johnny Sexton has won 88 caps for Ireland

Ireland flyhalf Johnny Sexton was chosen as the team's new captain on Wednesday as coach Andy Farrell named his first squad since taking over from Joe Schmidt after last year's disappointing World Cup.

Sexton, a former world rugby player of the year who is his country's second highest ever points scorer, fills the vacancy left by Rory Best, who retired after a World Cup in which his side were humbled by hosts Japan and dumped out by holders New Zealand.

"It's a huge honour, the biggest honour of my career to be asked to do it and I'm really looking forward to the challenges that are coming up and hopefully we can have a successful Six Nations now," the Leinster number 10 said in a statement.

Leinster trio Ronan Kelleher, Caelan Doris and Max Deegan are among the potential Test debutants selected for the tournament, along with Ulster pair Billy Burns and Tom O'Toole.

Sexton, who has won 88 caps for Ireland, has not played since suffering a knee injury playing for Leinster in early December but, according to his club side, is making "good progress" in his recovery.

The 34-year-old's only previous experience of captaining his country came in October during the World Cup pool stage win over Russia.

Ireland kick off their Six Nations campaign at home to Scotland on February 1.

Ireland squad:

Forwards: Max Deegan (Leinster), Caelan Doris (Leinster), Ultan Dillane (Connacht), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Dave Heffernan (Connacht), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Rob Herring (Ulster), Ronan Kelleher (Leinster), Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Jack McGrath (Ulster), Jack O'Donoghue (Munster), Peter O'Mahony (Munster), Tom O'Toole (Ulster), Andrew Porter (Leinster), James Ryan (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Josh Van Der Flier (Leinster).

Backs: Will Addison (Ulster), Bundee Aki (Connacht), Billy Burns (Ulster), Ross Byrne (Leinster), Andrew Conway (Munster), John Cooney (Ulster), Keith Earls (Munster), Chris Farrell (Munster), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), Dave Kearney (Leinster), Jordan Larmour (Leinster), Luke McGrath (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster), Garry Ringrose (Leinster), Johnny Sexton (Leinster), Jacob Stockdale (Ulster).