Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has named three uncapped players in a squad of 40 for the opening two games of this year's RBS 6 Nations against Scotland and Italy.

Munster trio Niall Scannell, Rory Scannell and Andrew Conway are all in line to earn their first caps for Ireland.

All three have been rewarded for a string of impressive performances for Munster with Conway in particular shining in his provinces' weekend Champions Cup victory over Racing 92.

Niall Scannell is expected to compete with Leinster's James Tracy as understudy for captain Rory Best, while Rory Scannell adds depth in the centres.

Despite going off injured while playing for Leinster in the Champions Cup on Friday, Johnny Sexton is also included in the initial squad. 

The 31-year-old limped out of Leinster's 24-24 Champions Cup draw in Castres on Friday night with calf trouble, but the injury is not thought to be severe enough to keep him out of the Six Nations opener.

Head coach Joe Schmidt leaves some high profile names out of the squad, notably Richardt Strauss and Rhys Ruddock, while Connacht's Quinn Roux and Bordeaux's Ian Madigan are also not included in the 40-man squad.

Joey Carbery and Jared Payne has also been omitted due to injury, but are expected to return to the fold when fit.

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

"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 autumn series."

Forwards (22)
Finlay Bealham, Rory Best, Jack Conan, Ultan Dillane, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Iain Henderson, Billy Holland, Dave Kilcoyne, Dan Leavy, Jack McGrath, Sean O'Brien, Tommy O'Donnell, Peter O'Mahony, Donnacha Ryan, John Ryan, Niall Scannell, CJ Stander, Devin Toner, James Tracy Josh van der Flier

Backs (18)
Tommy Bowe, Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Craig Gilroy, Robbie Henshaw, Paddy Jackson, Rob Kearney Kieran Marmion, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Luke McGrath, Conor Murray, Tiernan O'Halloran, Garry Ringrose, Rory Scannell, Jonathan Sexton, Andrew Trimble, Simon Zebo