Here's the Ireland squad for the Six Nations 4 years ago

Here's the Ireland squad for the Six Nations

The announcement was expected on Friday.

Then it was Sunday.

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Now it is Monday and we finally know the 40 men on whom Joe Schmidt will be relying as he aims to add a third Six Nations championship to his haul.

Schmidt announced his extended squad for the upcoming tournament at 10am today and there were a few surprises.

Schmidt will be forced to sweat on the fitness of out-half Johnny Sexton, who was forced out of Leinster's Champions Cup draw with Castres at the weekend, but Ronan O'Gara is reliably informed that Sexton will be back in time for the tournament opener against Scotland in Murrayfield on February 4.

Ulster's Paddy Jackson will be ready to deputise if Sexton comes up short in his race for fitness, while Schmidt has faith in Sexton returning as he has not opted to call up a third out-and-out out-half.

In uncapped news, there are places in the squad for Munster brothers Niall and Rory Scannell, with both men rewarded for their breakthrough heroics for the province with their first call-ups to the international stage while Andrew Conway has too been given a show of faith.

"It has been good to watch the players over the past two months and great to see many of them doing so well," Schmidt said.

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"As always there were some difficult decisions but we feel that the group is a good mix with a number of key players having good experience and a number of newer players having gained valuable experience and confidence during the summer tour to South Africa and the recent Guinness Series."

There are 13 Munster men in the selection, which is the province's biggest representation since 2010.

England remain odds on to claim successive Six Nations champions while Ireland find themselves second favourites to lift the trophy come March.

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Forwards (22)
Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht) 6 caps
Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) (c) 100 caps
Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster) 1 cap
Ultan Dillane (Corinthians/Connacht) 8 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 11 caps
Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 62 caps
Jamie Heaslip (Dublin University/Leinster) (vc) 91 caps
Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 28 caps
Billy Holland (Cork Constitution/Munster) 1 cap
Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster) 17 caps
Dan Leavy (UCD/Leinster) 1 cap
Jack McGrath (St. Mary's College/Leinster) 36 caps
Sean O'Brien (UCD/Leinster) 44 caps

Tommy O'Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster) 12 caps
Peter O'Mahony (Cork Con/Munster) 37 caps
Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster) 43 caps
John Ryan (Cork Constitution/Munster) 1 cap
Niall Scannell (Dolphin/Munster) *
CJ Stander (Munster) 10 caps
Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 42 caps
James Tracy (UCD/Leinster) 1 cap
Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 5 caps

Backs (18)
Tommy Bowe (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) 67 caps
Andrew Conway (Munster) *
Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 54 caps
Craig Gilroy (Bangor/Ulster) 9 caps
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 24 caps
Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster) 19 caps
Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster) 72 caps
Kieran Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht) 9 caps
Luke Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster) 9 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 1 cap
Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) 1 cap
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 53 caps
Tiernan O'Halloran (Buccaneers/Connacht) 3 caps
Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 3 caps
Rory Scannell (Dolphin/Munster) *
Jonathan Sexton (St Mary's College/Leinster) 63 caps
Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster) 69 caps
Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster) 28 caps