London (AFP)

Opener Johnny Sexton will be the captain of the Irish squad which will have 35 players for the Six Nations Tournament, according to the list published Wednesday by the Federation and which does not include the experienced Rob Kearney.

Sexton takes the difficult succession of the pillar Rory Best who retired after the World Cup in Japan, where the XV of Clover was taken out in the quarter-finals by New Zealand (46-14).

"It is the greatest honor of my career to be asked for (this responsibility)," said Sexton, who had previously been captain once in Japan, in the group match against Russia.

"He has developed his leadership qualities in recent years with Ireland, Leinster and the Lions and he will be a very positive voice for this group," commented coach Andy Farrell.

Affected at the knee in early December, Sexton (34) has not resumed since but his club assured that he was making "good progress" in his recovery.

The group of 35 players also includes 5 novices. Three are from Leinster - hooker Ronan Kelleher, third wing line Caelan Doris and third center line Max Deegan - and two from Ulster, halfback Billy Burns and pillar Tom O'Toole.

However, the back of Leinster Rob Kearney (33, 94 caps) was not called, nor was hooker Sean Cronin (33, 72 caps).

Ireland will start its tournament on February 1st at home against Scotland.

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)

Back: 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), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster / capt), Jacob Stockdale (Ulster)

© 2020 AFP