London - Ireland coach Joe Schmidt says Johnny Sexton is making good progress in his recovery from injury as the defending champions on Wednesday named a squad of 38 players for the opening two rounds of the Six Nations.
Sexton, the reigning World Player of the Year, has been troubled by a knee tendon issue and will miss Leinster's final European Champions Cup pool match at Wasps on Sunday.
But Schmidt say Sexton's presence in the squad means the fly-half is on course to feature when Ireland start their Six Nations campaign at home to England on February 2 before meeting Scotland at Murrayfield seven days later.
"Johnny Sexton is making good progress, while (fly-halves) Joey Carbery and Jack Carty have both performed consistently well so far this season," Schmidt said.
Centre Robbie Henshaw has recovered from a hamstring strain to take his place in the squad.
Scrum-half Luke McGrath is likely to miss the entire tournament after damaging knee ligaments, but Conor Murray is back after a neck injury.
With Kieran Marmion also missing through injury, Ulster's John Cooney and Connacht's uncapped Caolin Blade offer scrum-half options.
On the centres and back-three positions, Schmidt added: "Bundee Aki and a fresh and fully fit Robbie Henshaw squeeze out Rory Scannell, who was great for Munster last Friday, and Stu McCloskey, who continues to give Ulster gain line as well as defensive solidity.
"At outside centre Tom Farrell has forced his way into contention and Chris Farrell is working his way back to match fitness, improving week by week.
"We're sure that Sam Arnold and Rory O'Loughlin will continue to improve and both have plenty of promise."
Ahead of the Six Nations, Ireland's squad will travel to Portugal to hold a four-day training camp from January 21.
Rory Best (Ulster), Sean Cronin (Leinster), Niall Scannell (Munster), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), Andrew Porter (Leinster), John Ryan (Munster), Tadgh Beirne (Munster), Ultan Dillane (Connacht), Iain Henderson (Ulster), James Ryan (Leinster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Jack Conan (Leinster), Jordi Murphy (Ulster), Sean O'Brien (Leinster), Peter O'Mahony (Munster), Rhys Ruddock (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster)
Will Addison (Ulster), Andrew Conway (Munster), Keith Earls (Munster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), Jordan Larmour (Leinster), Jacob Stockdale (Ulster), Bundee Aki (Connacht), Chris Farrell (Munster), Tom Farrell (Connacht), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), Garry Ringrose (Leinster), Joey Carbery (Munster), Jack Carty (Connacht), Johnny Sexton (Leinster), Caolin Blade (Connacht), John Cooney (Ulster), Conor Murray (Munster)