Six Nations 2024: Who could replace retired Johnny Sexton as Ireland captain?

Andy Farrell and Johnny Sexton
Andy Farrell will have to select a new Ireland captain after Johnny Sexton retired after the World Cup in October

After Johnny Sexton’s retirement following the Rugby World Cup, Andy Farrell is tasked with appointing a new captain to lead Ireland into the Six Nations and beyond.

Sexton will be a hard act to follow no matter who is selected, but Ireland have strength in depth in the leadership department and whoever gets the nod will be a regular fixture in green.

Does Farrell select an experienced head or a more youthful, long-term appointment?

BBC Sport NI looks at five players who could be named captain ahead of Farrell naming his Six Nations squad on Wednesday afternoon (14:00 GMT).

Garry Ringrose

Garry Ringrose in action
Garry Ringrose is one of the first names on Andy Farrell’s team sheet

It’s hard to fill the boots of Brian O’Driscoll, but Leinster centre Garry Ringrose has established himself as one of Ireland’s key players since making his international debut in 2016.

He has leadership experience with Leinster, captaining the side to Pro14 success in 2020, and was named the province’s co-captain, alongside James Ryan, in November.

At 28, Ringrose is heading into his prime years and he was superb at the World Cup for Ireland and has been on song since his return to action with Leinster.

He is also one of the first names on Farrell’s team sheet, which should only help his cause.

James Ryan

James Ryan
James Ryan made his Ireland debut before his first match for Leinster

Along with Ringrose, James Ryan is another frontrunner for the role given his recent experience and his quality on the field.

Like his Leinster team-mate and co-captain, second row Ryan is entering his peak years and has become a leader of the formidable Irish pack.

He has also skippered Ireland in the past when Sexton has not been available and is a former captain for Ireland Under-20s.

After a number of niggly injuries, Ryan is now back to his best and, when fit, is one of the first names on Farrell’s team sheet.

Peter O’Mahony

Peter O'Mahony
Peter O’Mahony was the ninth man to win 100 Ireland caps

A mountain of a man, Peter O’Mahony is an Ireland legend and regarded as a leader of the pack that has won numerous Six Nations titles.

The flanker, 34, has captained Ireland on a number of occasions since making his debut in green in 2010.

O’Mahony was named Munster captain in 2013, a role he held for 10 years. He lifted the United Rugby Championship title in May before stepping down in November.

He has also captained the British and Irish Lions, which underlines his credentials and has the respect of the entire dressing room.

He’s also plenty of leadership experience from underage rugby too. Would his age go against him? Perhaps, but Sexton was also 34 when he was named captain and there is no doubting his leadership qualities. A natural captain.

Iain Henderson

Iain Henderson scores a try against Scotland
Iain Henderson made his Ireland debut in 2012

Ulster captain Iain Henderson would be a safe pair of hands to lead Ireland if he was given the nod by Farrell.

The 31-year-old second row is a man who likes to do his talking on the pitch, rather than off it. In saying that, when he does speak, people listen and his experience on the international stage is invaluable.

The two-time British and Irish Lion made his Ireland debut way back in 2012 and has four Six Nations titles – including the 2018 and 2023 Triple Crowns – in his locker.

Given Ireland’s depth at second row, Henderson is a key player but not necessarily a guaranteed started with the likes of Ryan, Tadhg Beirne and the up-and-coming Joe McCarthy.

However, given his credentials with Ulster and the fact he captained Ireland In the 2021 Six Nations and against Italy in a World Cup warm-up, he will definitely be high up the list of Farrell’s options and would be a popular choice in the squad.

Caelan Doris

Caelan Doris
Caelan Doris would offer a long-term solution as Ireland captain

On paper, Caelan Doris looks like something of an outsider for the Irish captaincy but when you delve a little deeper it’s not as strange a suggestion as it first may appear.

At 25, he is significantly younger than those mentioned above in the list. However, since breaking into the Ireland team in 2020 he has become a regular fixture in the back row.

Doris continues to impress on the pitch and was named Rugby Players Ireland Players’ Player of the Year for his performances last season, which highlights how he is regarded by his team-mates.

He also has leadership experience with Ireland’s under-20s and the highly-regarded Blackrock School.

Is definitely something of a bolter when you consider the other players on the list, but he would provide a long-term appointment for the next generation under Farrell, who handed him his debut in 2020.

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