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Sexton captains strong Ireland Six Nations team

Ireland named a near full-strength squad for the Six Nations on Thursday, with one uncapped player among the 37 selected and captain Johnny Sexton included as expected as he bids to return to fitness for the Feb. 4 opener in Wales.

The only surprise in Andy Farrell’s selection was the omission of Joey Carbery — Sexton’s usual understudy at flyhalf — with his Munster teammate Jack Crowley and Leinster’s Ross Byrne included.

Byrne kicked the winning penalty against Australia in November after being added to the squad at the last minute and has since performed well for Leinster.

Another in-form Leinster back, Jamie Osborne, is the only uncapped player selected. The 21-year-old, who can play at wing, centre and fullback, was player of the match in last weekend’s European Champions Cup thrashing of Gloucester.

Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale, who was Six Nations player of the tournament in 2018, returns to the Ireland squad for the first time since July 2021.

Robbie Henshaw is Ireland’s only major loss through injury as they look to build on their recent excellent form with a first Six Nations title in five years.

Sexton should also recover from a cheekbone injury in time for the trip to Cardiff, Leinster said last week.

“The Six Nations is a huge competition for us and another opportunity for us to grow as group,” coach Farrell said. “2022 was a busy year as we got to work with a larger group of players as we continued to build our squad depth and competition for places.

“While there are a few players carrying knocks and others that have missed out on selection for the start of the tournament, they will have the opportunity to push their case playing for their provinces over the coming weeks.”

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