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Sexton starts at 10 for Leinster, Madigan partners O'Driscoll

Jamie Heaslip and Kevin McLaughlin get starts against Biarritz but Gordon D’Arcy and Sean O’Brien are out.

Ian Madigan contemplates a juggle at Leinster training.
Ian Madigan contemplates a juggle at Leinster training.
Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

JONATHAN SEXTON HAS won his personal duel with Ian Madigan to start as outhalf against Biarritz in the Amlin Challenge Cup but there are extenuating circumstances.

Madigan will begin tomorrow afternoon’s semi-final clash at inside centre as coach Joe Schmidt was forced into shuffling his backline due to a calf strain to Gordon D’Arcy. The 24-year-old will partner Brian O’Driscoll in the Leinster midfield.

Speaking about his rival outhalves yesterday, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt gave no hints that both men would start at the RDS.

He told TheScore.ie, “They have both spent a fair bit of time on the field this week. They have both moved in and out of the position and we would like to think whichever one takes the field will be fully ready and will add value.

I’m really happy with the way Ian had progressed. I think people have focused on him a lot more lately but that progression has been there certainly over the last three years I have seen progress from Ian.”

Schmidt added, “Ian has now played a lot of senior games for us. He had a week off last weekend; his first since Cardiff last year at around about the same time or even earlier.”

Richardt Strauss gets the nod to start as hooker with Mike Ross and Cian Healy. Captain Leo Cullen partners Devin Toner in the second row while Shane Jennings starts at openside flanker in a back row that also contains Jamie Heaslip and Kevin McLaughlin but no Sean O’Brien.

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Sean Cronin is part of a decent bench that also features Rhys Ruddock, Andrew Conway and young scrum-half John Cooney.

Dave Kearney has not passed the cognitive tests needed to return to full action and will not feature. It remains doubtful whether he will feature for the remainder of the season.

Leinster: R Kearney; F McFadden, B O’Driscoll, I Madigan, I Nacewa; J Sexton, I Boss; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross; L Cullen (c), D Toner; K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip.

Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, J Hagan, Q Roux, R Ruddock, J Cooney, A Goodman, A Conway.

TheScore.ie will be liveblogging all the action at the RDS from 2pm tomorrow.

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Patrick McCarry

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