Six Nations 2024: Peter O’Mahony named Ireland captain following Johnny Sexton’s retirement

Peter O'Mahony and Johnny Sexton pictured at the World Cup
O’Mahony steps into the leadership role following Johnny Sexton’s retirement
Dates: 2 February-16 March
Coverage: Selected matches on BBC TV and BBC iPlayer with live text commentary and BBC Radio 5 Live commentary on every match.

Peter O’Mahony has been named Ireland captain for this year’s Six Nations title defence following the retirement of Johnny Sexton.

Veteran Munster flanker O’Mahony, 34, leads a 34-man squad named by head coach Andy Farrell on Wednesday.

With Sexton retired, Farrell has named Jack Crowley, Harry Byrne and Ciaran Frawley as his three fly-halves.

He has also included uncapped trio Oli Jager, Thomas Ahern and Sam Prendergast as training panellists.

Sexton’s retirement paves the way for a new era for Ireland with Crowley, Byrne and Frawley possessing just 12 caps between them.

There is no place for Leinster fly-half Ross Byrne – Harry’s older brother – following his arm surgery.

There are six Ulster players in the squad, including a recall for Jacob Stockdale after missing out on World Cup selection.

Lock Iain Henderson, centre Stuart McCloskey and prop Tom O’Toole retain their places while hooker Tom Stewart is named after Rob Herring suffered a “significant” elbow injury in training last week.

Ulster back row Nick Timoney, who last played for Ireland in 2022, also earns a recall, as do Leinster wing Jordan Larmour, Munster wing Calvin Nash and Leinster prop Cian Healy, who missed the World Cup because of injury.

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Ireland’s Six Nations squad

Forwards: Ryan Baird, Finlay Bealham, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Caelan Doris, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Iain Henderson, Ronan Kelleher, Jeremy Loughman, Joe McCarthy, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Tom O’Toole, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, Dan Sheehan, Tom Stewart, Nick Timoney, Josh van der Flier.

Backs: Bundee Aki, Harry Byrne, Craig Casey, Jack Crowley, Ciaran Frawley, Jamison Gibson-Park, Robbie Henshaw, Hugo Keenan, Jordan Larmour, James Lowe, Stuart McCloskey, Conor Murray, Calvin Nash, Garry Ringrose, Jacob Stockdale.

Training panellists: Oli Jager, Thomas Ahern, Sam Prendergast.

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O’Mahony thanks Farrell for ‘show of faith’

O’Mahony, who has 101 caps, has captained Ireland on 10 occasions since making his debut in 2010.

The back row also captained the British and Irish Lions in their opening Test against the All Blacks in 2017.

O’Mahony, who had said he was unsure about his Ireland future following their World Cup quarter-final exit to the All Blacks in October, stepped down as Munster captain in November after 10 years in the role.

His contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union is set to expire at the end of the 2023-24 season.

James Ryan, Caelan Doris, Iain Henderson and Garry Ringrose had also been touted as possible successors to Sexton, who retired after the Rugby World Cup.

“Ever since I was a boy starting off in the game, I have always dreamed of captaining Ireland,” said O’Mahony.

“I have been asked to lead Ireland on a number of occasions previously, and each of those 10 matches were special days.

“To be now asked to captain Ireland ahead of the Six Nations is without doubt one of the proudest moments of my life and I would like to thank Andy for this show of faith in me.”

On O’Mahony, Farrell said: “He is thoroughly deserving of this honour, and I know that he will relish working closely with the wider leadership group and squad over the coming campaign.”

Nick Timoney in action for Ireland in 2022
Ulster back row Nick Timoney has been rewarded for his good form this season having earned the last of his three Test caps in the 2022 autumn internationals

Farrell, who was last week named British and Irish Lions head coach for the 2025 Australia tour, is without injured backs Mack Hansen and Jimmy O’Brien, with prop Dave Kilcoyne also ruled out of the tournament.

The Irish squad will gather in Dublin on Monday to begin preparations for their Six Nations title defence before travelling Portugal on Wednesday for a pre-tournament training camp.

Ireland open their campaign against France in Marseille on 2 February, followed by home fixtures against Italy (11 February) and Wales (24 February) before travelling to Twickenham to face England on 9 March.

Farrell’s side will conclude their tournament by hosting Scotland in Dublin on 16 March.

Farrell, who will miss next year’s Six Nations because of his Lions commitments, said the upcoming tournament presents a chance for his side to “grow and develop”.

“The Six Nations is one of the biggest stages in world rugby and this year’s competition will be keenly fought,” said the Englishman.

“I am pleased with the quality of performances by the extended group over the last number of weeks and believe that the squad is in good shape.

“I would like to congratulate all those who have been selected, especially those who are at the beginning of their international journeys.

“It doesn’t get much tougher than France away in the opening weekend, but it is a challenge that we will approach in a positive frame of mind.”

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