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O'Brien and Fitzgerald return as Schmidt names 46-man Six Nations squad

Jonathan Sexton is also among the extended squad, despite being ruled out of at least the opening fixture.

Updated 15.35

IRELAND HEAD COACH Joe Schmidt has today unveiled his 46-man squad ahead of the defence of the Six Nations Championship.

There are two uncapped players in the extended squad at either end of the age-scale with 33 -year-old Nathan White involved in his second squad and 22-year-old Leinster back row Jack Conan.

Sean O'Brien Neither O'Brien or Fitzgerald have won a cap since Ireland's defeat to New Zealand in 2013. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Sean O’Brien, Iain Henderson and Cian Healy are all named among the squad as they near a return to fitness after a prolonged spell on the sidelines, with Luke Fitzgerald aiming for a first cap since November 2013.

The inflated squad number will also provide the pool for Schmidt to select a Wolfhounds team to face England when the traditional pre-tournament fixture is played in Cork next Friday

With a spate of injuries denying Schmidt of a host of players – such as Andrew Trimble, Chris Henry, Luke Marshall, Donnacha Ryan and Mike Sherry – the Kiwi said that this squad provides a chance for younger players to stake a claim in either the Wolfhounds or the Test arena.

“The coaching group have tried to strike a balance between some players getting the chance to fully complete their rehabilitation programmes, or get a bit of rest and others getting the opportunity to push their claims with further game time in the Wolfhounds fixture.”

The breakdown of the squad by club is; one from Racing Metro, three from Connacht, eight from Ulster, 10 from Munster and 24 from Leinster.

Ireland squad, 2015 Six Nations

(Uncapped players in bold)

Props

Jack McGrath, Michael Bent, James Cronin, Cian Healy, Nathan White, Martin Moore, Mike Ross.

Hookers

Rob Herring, Sean Cronin, Rory Best, Richardt Strauss

Second rows

Dave Foley, Paul O’Connell, Mike McCarthy, Devin Toner

Back row

Jordi Murphy, Sean O’Brien, Tommy O’Donnell, Peter O’Mahony, Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Jamie Heaslip, Jack Conan, Robbie Diack.

Half-backs

 Kieran Marmion, Isaac Boss, Eoin Reddan, Conor Murray, Ian Keatley, Ian Madigan, Jonathan Sexton.

Centres

Darren Cave, Gordon D’Arcy, Jared Payne, Noel Reid, Luke Fitzgerald, Robbie Henshaw

Back threes

Craig Gilroy, Tommy Bowe, Keith Earls, Felix Jones, David Kearney, Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Simon Zebo.

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Sean Farrell

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