Leinster centre Robbie Henshaw returns to the national fold for the first time since June last year after recovering from a hamstring injury and is joined by flanker Sean O'Brien, who has made recovery from a broken arm that he sustained during the November series clash against Argentina.
The squad includes three uncapped players from Connacht in Caolin Blade, Jack Carty and Tom Farrell while Dan Leavy has been ruled out due to injury. Conor Murray, who recently recovered from an injury will be the first choice scrum-half with Luke McGrath and Kieran Marmion sidelined.
Playmaker and World Rugby Player of the Year 2018 Johnny Sexton is included in the squad despite struggling with a knee tendon but is expected to be fit in time for the opening game against England while Jack Carty has been preferred over Ross Bryne.
“It’s been great to watch the provincial teams doing so well in recent weeks," head coach Schmidt said.
"With another very competitive round of EPCR this weekend, the following Ireland squad for the first two matches of the Six Nations has been selected, knowing that late changes may be required, depending on how the matches go in the weekend.
"There have been a number of tight calls across almost every position.
“Conor Murray is back but Luke McGrath’s knee injury against Toulouse is likely to rule him out of the Six Nations.
“Kieran Marmion is not too far away from returning but John Cooney will hopefully be back this weekend for Ulster. It’s a great opportunity for Caolin Blade to get into camp and compete for a spot.
“Johnny Sexton is making good progress, while Joey Carbery and Jack Carty have both performed consistently well so far this season. Ross Byrne is unlucky in an incredibly tight call.
"He is still definitely in our thinking and will continue to press for inclusion through the Six Nations and beyond, while Billy Burns has also fitted in really well for Ulster this season.”
Ireland squad for Six Nations:
Rory Best (captain), Sean Cronin, Niall Scannell, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Dave Kilcoyne, Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter, John Ryan, Tadgh Beirne, Ultan Dillane, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Devin Toner, Jack Conan, Jordi Murphy, Sean O'Brien, Peter O'Mahony, Rhys Ruddock, CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier
Back three: Will Addison, Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Jacob Stockdale, Bundee Aki, Chris Farrell, Tom Farrell, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, Joey Carbery, Jack Carty, Johnny Sexton, Caolin Blade, John Cooney, Conor Murray