Peter O’Mahony says being selected to succeed Johnny Sexton as Ireland captain is one of the proudest moments of his life.
The vastly-experienced Munster flanker will steer his country through the forthcoming Guinness Six Nations after Sexton retired following last year’s World Cup quarter-final exit to New Zealand.
O’Mahony, who first skippered Ireland in a 15-12 win over the United States in June 2013, has won 101 Test caps for his country, plus one for the British and Irish Lions.
Head coach Andy Farrell picked the 34-year-old for the role ahead of the likes of James Ryan, Iain Henderson, Garry Ringrose and Caelan Doris.
“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.”
O’Mahony guided Munster to last season’s United Rugby Championship title but stepped down as skipper of his province in November after 10 years in the role.
He also captained the Lions in their opening Test against the All Blacks in 2017.
O’Mahony’s future has been subject to speculation due to his central contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union being set to expire at the end of the season.
Yet Farrell, whose 34-man selection features no uncapped players and no real surprises, had little hesitation in choosing him to spearhead Ireland’s title defence.
“He is a born leader and someone who has been an influential figure for Munster and Ireland for many years,” said Farrell.
“I am confident that the squad will continue to benefit from his leadership skills, both on and off the field.
“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.”
Farrell has kept faith with 26 of the players who travelled to the World Cup in France.
Jack Crowley, who has just nine caps, is likely to step into Sexton’s shoes as Ireland’s first-choice fly-half, with inexperienced Leinster pair Ciaran Frawley and Harry Byrne providing back up.
Fellow number 10 Ross Byrne, front-row forwards Dave Kilcoyne and Rob Herring and backs Mack Hansen and Jimmy O’Brien miss out due to injuries, while Sexton and Keith Earls have retired.
In addition to Frawley and Harry Byrne, there are recalls for their provincial team-mates Cian Healy and Jordan Larmour, Ulster trio Tom Stewart, Nick Timoney and Jacob Stockdale and Munster wing Calvin Nash.
Munster pair Oli Jager and Thomas Ahern and Leinster’s Sam Prendergast are uncapped training panellists.
Reigning Grand Slam champions Ireland begin the tournament on February 2 against France in Marseille.
“We have a strong core of leaders who will all play a key role in driving the highest standards for the team over the coming weeks,” added new skipper O’Mahony.
“Competition is red-hot across the squad and we’re all hugely motivated to work hard when we meet up next week ahead of the opening game in Marseille.”