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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 22 November, 2019

Boost for Leinster and Ireland as Johnny Sexton returns ahead of busy schedule

Leinster coach Girvan Dempsey also gave an injury update on Rob Kearney.

Sexton has not featured for his province since May.
Sexton has not featured for his province since May.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IRELAND OUT-HALF Johnny Sexton is set to return for Leinster on Friday night against Ospreys, after nearly four months on the sidelines.

The 31-year-old has returned to full training this week, and could feature for Leo Cullen’s men when they take on the Pro12 table toppers at the RDS.

The former Racing Metro star has been out of action since the end of May, when he damaged his shoulder in the Pro12 final loss to Connacht.

Leinster’s backs coach Girvan Dempsey is looking forward to seeing the Irish international back in action against the Welsh side.

“He has gone well, he went through a good block of work last week in training and all looks good. We are delighted to have him back on board,” Dempsey said at Leinster’s press conference this afternoon.

“He has been excellent all the way through pre-season, and massively beneficial to have him around the club, and we are really excited to have him back on board.”

News of Sexton’s return will be a boost for both Leinster and Ireland with the eastern province’s Champions Cup campaign beginning on 15 October against French side Castres, before Joe Schmidt’s team face four November internationals – including two matches against World Cup holders New Zealand.

Back row Rhys Ruddock has also recovered from injury to take part in training, and will be assessed along with Fergus McFadden after he picked up a minor niggle last week, before Cullen names his side for the match against Ospreys, while captain Isa Nacewa came through the game against Edinburgh showing no ill-effects.

Girvan Dempsey Dempsey has welcomed the increased competition for places at Leinster. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

But it is not such good news for full-back Rob Kearney who is still struggling with a knee injury, with Sean O’Brien, Robbie Henshaw and Richardt Strauss among the Leinster players still ruled out.

“Hopeful he’ll (Kearney) be back before Europe. He strained his knee, and he is in a rehab programme at the moment.

“It is gut-wrenching for him. He had come back and he was like a new kid, re-energised and revitalised back on the field, actually taking a lot of ownership of certain aspects of our game, moving really well. It’s so disappointing for him to get that knock.

“He has responded well to his rehab, and we are hopeful he’ll be back sooner, rather than later.”

Looking ahead

Leinster face a number of high-profile games in the coming weeks, with the match against Ospreys followed by a trip to Cardiff, before the clash against Munster at the Aviva Stadium all to come before their European campaign begins.

But the bonus-point victory over Edinburgh on Friday has ensured that there is a greater sense of competition for places between the younger players and the seasoned internationals.

“It is a great place to be, a great selection headache for the coaches – to have that sort of depth, and opportunity to select different styles and different types of players,” Dempsey continued.

“We have a number of players on real form, so there is great competition there, and brilliant to have. Overall, we are pretty happy where the squad is at.”

“You look at the Ospreys and they are the form team, they are on a high, they’ve had three games, 15 points – a bonus-point in every game, scored 21 tries and only conceded three.

“They are a formidable side, and they seem to be the side to beat this year in the Pro12.”

“We are three games in. I think we are happy where we are at, I think we’ve let a couple of opportunities slip, in terms of taking extra points in a couple of the games.

“We feel we are improving week-on-week, and we are growing through our systems in attack and defence. We feel for this stage of the season, we are in a good place.

Dempsey also confirmed that Stuart Lancaster’s role with the province is not just focused on the defensive side, but instead the former England coach will  look at all areas of their game.

“From coaches and players point of view, I think he has fitted in pretty seamlessly. It’s brilliant to have somebody of his experience, who has been through international rugby, and he has brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to that.

“It has been excellent to have him around, and I think the players have responded likewise, and they have been very receptive to him. It has been really good.”

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Shane Costello

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