Joe Schmidt has named his Ireland squad looking to repeat their 2018 Grand Slam success.

Ireland Six Nations Squad 2019

Ireland have been given a boost this week after it was announced that Iain Henderson has been cleared to play against Italy this weekend. The Ulster lock was cited whilst playing for his club last weekend but he has escaped suspension after a disciplinary panel saw it as a yellow card only.

Additionally, Kieran Marmion will be available to play in the remainder of the Six Nations. Recovering from ankle surgery which took place days after Ireland’s historic win over the All Blacks, Marmion will help push an out-of-sorts Conor Murray.

Additionally Ultan Dillane, Caolin Blade, Jack Carty and Tom Farrell have all been released to play in Connacht’s match against the Cheetahs this week.

Ireland Team to play Scotland in the Six Nations – Saturday 9th February

Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best (capt), Tadhg Furlong, James Ryan, Quinn Roux, Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Ultan Dillane, Josh van der Flier, John Cooney, Joey Carbery, Jordan Larmour.

Ireland Team to play England in the Six Nations – Saturday 2nd February

Robbie Henshaw; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best (capt), Tadhg Furlong; Devin Toner, James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Quinn Roux, Sean O’Brien, John Cooney, Joey Carbery, Jordan Larmour

Robbie Henshaw will return to the Ireland starting line-up at full-back-back instead of his usual midfield role this weekend. Conor Murray returns after a neck injury kept him out of the Autumn Internationals and Jonathan Sexton has recovered from his knee issue to also start.

In the forwards, Josh Van Der Flier beats Sean O’Brien to one of the starting flanker roles and teams up with Peter O’Mahoney and CJ Stander.

Finally John Cooney is expected to make his debut as he will provide cover for Murray in the absence of Kian Marmion and Luke McGrath.

Ireland Six Nations Squad 2019

Forwards (21): Rory BestJack Conan, Sean Cronin, Ultan Dillane, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Iain Henderson, Dave Kilcoyne, Jack McGrath, Jordi Murphy, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony, Andrew Porter, Quinn Roux, Rhys Ruddock, James Ryan, John Ryan, Niall Scannell, CJ Stander, Devin Toner, Josh van der Flier

Backs (17): Will Addison, Bundee Aki, Caolin Blade, Adam Byrne, Joey Carbery, Jack Carty, Andrew Conway, John Cooney, Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Tom Farrell, Robbie Henshaw, Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Conor Murray, Garry Ringrose, Jonathan Sexton, Jacob Stockdale 

Joe Schmidt has named an incredibly strong Ireland squad for the opening two rounds of the 2019 Six Nations.

Aside from Jonathan Sexton who has a knee issue which ruled him out of Leinster’s contest with Wasps last weekend, the Irish have their first choice players in each position available.

In the front-row Schmidt has Cian Healy, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong all available with Andrew Porter and Jack McGrath both providing world-class cover off the bench.

James Ryan, Devin Toner, and Iain Henderson will battle it out for the two starting lock positions however it is in the back-row where the Irish truly have an embarrassment of riches to choose from. Tadhg Beirne unfortunately has been ruled out of the first two rounds of the tournament with a knee injury, with Quinn Roux coming in.

Joe Schmidt said of this problem; “Even more competitive is the back row, where those selected could well be joined by Dan Leavy once he’s fully fit.

“With a cohort of young players emerging, it will continue to keep plenty of pressure on the performances of the experienced back rowers who have been selected.”

Cause for Concern? The Irish scrum-half position has been hit by injuries of late (Getty Images)

Shifting to the back-line, one area of concern could be the scrum-half role. Conor Murray has had injury issues of late and his usual replacement Luke McGrath is out for an extended period of time with a serious knee injury. Kieran Marmion has also been out for a bit but he is due to return at some stage during the tournament.

As far as the rest of the back-line goes it is the usual crop of players who are likely to start. Sexton is due to return during the tournament and then you have the destructive threesome of Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw to fit into two centres jerseys.

Finally, the back-three will, in all likelihood, see Keith Earls, Rob Kearney and Jacob Stockdale play alongside one another with young star Jordan Larmour giving impetus as a replacement.

Adam Byrne has come into the squad after Andrew Conway picked up a knock against Exeter.

Looking to repeat their 2018 Grand Slam success, considering their strength and depth the Irish are looking very strong favourites to collect another Six Nations title in this Rugby World Cup year.

Related: Six Nations TV Coverage

Schmidt said of his squad; “It’s been great to watch the provincial teams doing so well in recent weeks. With another very competitive round of EPCR (European Professional Club Rugby) this weekend, the following Ireland squad for the first two matches of the Six Nations has been selected, knowing that late changes may be required, depending on how the matches go in the weekend. There have been a number of tight calls across almost every position.”

Ireland open their Six Nations account against England on February 2.

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