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Cullen optimistic over Sexton injury as Six Nations looms into view

The Leinster out-half had tightness in his calf during the 24-24 draw in Castres.

Murray Kinsella reports from Stade Pierre Antoine

LEINSTER HEAD COACH Leo Cullen says Johnny Sexton will undergo a scan on his calf after being forced off in the first half of his side’s 24-24 draw with Castres this evening.

Cullen says his initial feeling is that Sexton is not a doubt for Ireland’s Six Nations campaign, which begins away to Scotland on 4 February, but the Leinster boss could not provide certainty.

Johnny Sexton watches during the second half after being replaced due to injury Sexton was forced off in the first half. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Sexton played just over 20 minutes of a game that saw Leinster all but secure a home quarter-final in the Champions Cup, walking off the pitch soon after missing a tackle in the build-up to Antoine Dupont’s try for Castres.

He cut a frustrated figure leaving the game, with this calf issue just the latest in a long line of injury problems for the 31-year-old.

Sexton’s start to the season was delayed as he returned from shoulder surgery that forced him to miss Ireland’s tour of South Africa last June. He then came into the November Tests with a hamstring issue, only to end the series with an injury in the hamstring of his other leg.

Having only returned to action from an extensive period of rehabilitation on his hamstring on 6 January, Sexton is now facing a new problem with his calf.

“He just had a bit of stiffness in his calf,” said Leinster head coach Cullen post-match in Castres. “We’ll see how he presents.

“Just a bit of tightness. But again, when he feels that, he was almost there making the call himself. And we obviously go with that. It’s obviously very early days, so we’ll see, get a scan and know exactly what extent there is there.”

Joe Schmidt would have been among the concerned observers as Sexton left the pitch and watched the remainder of Leinster’s game from the sidelines.

While Cullen could not be certain so soon after the Castres draw, his sense is that Sexton will not be a doubt for the start of the Six Nations.

“It’s very early days yet,” said Cullen. “I don’t imagine so, but I don’t know. We’ll wait and see. He’ll get scanned and he has all next week and the week after before he gets into that first game so we’ll get the reports early next week.”

Johnny Sexton Sexton faces a scan on his calf. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Captain Isa Nacewa, meanwhile, went off with a dead leg in the first half.

“He had that dead leg from last week and it was just stiffening in bit by bit,” said Cullen.

Leinster will only be denied a home quarter-final in April if Munster, Saracens and Clermont all win this weekend and Connacht notch a bonus-point win over Toulouse on Sunday on a 62-point winning margin.

That is highly unlikely, of course, but Cullen wouldn’t admit the home quarter-final was in the bag just yet.

“It’s great that we’re in the quarter-finals,” said Cullen. “We don’t know where we’re going to be yet, but we’ve got a quarter-final to look forward to.”

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Murray Kinsella

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