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Dublin: 14°C Friday 23 April 2021

Leinster players vote for five-man leadership group in Sexton's absence

With Rhys Ruddock and Luke McGrath also away at the World Cup, Leo Cullen will want his senior players to step up.

Scott Fardy will play an important role for Leinster in the coming weeks.
Scott Fardy will play an important role for Leinster in the coming weeks.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

LEINSTER HAVE NOT yet announced who will step into the role of captain whilst Johnny Sexton is away at the World Cup, but the players have voted for a five-man leadership group for the first phase of the new Guinness Pro14 season.

With last year’s vice-captains Rhys Ruddock and Luke McGrath also currently in Japan with Joe Schmidt’s Ireland, the Leinster dressing room nominated Scott Fardy, Ross Molony, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ed Byrne and Fergus McFadden as part of the leadership group.

Fardy is the obvious candidate to deputise in the role of captain for the first two months of the Pro14 campaign having stepped in at various junctures last term, while Molony skippered the province twice during pre-season. 

Speaking at today’s Pro14 season launch in Dublin, Cullen confirmed Sexton is still very much the club captain again this year but the head coach will be hoping his senior players step up in the coming weeks. 

“Johnny is still captain at the moment but we haven’t seen a huge amount of him lately,” Cullen laughed. “We went through a process of voting for leaders that the players voted for.

“We’ve a leadership group now of five players, of which Scott is one. Ross Molony, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ed Byrne and Fergus McFadden, they’re the five players that form our leadership group at this stage.

“The season is tricky with guys away and coming back in. Last season we had Johnny as our captain, Rhys as vice-captain and Luke McGrath was there as well. Those three are at the World Cup now but we have a strong group of leaders.

“We haven’t made an announcement as such but Johnny is the captain of the club and he’s still captain of the club. I think everyone would recognise that. Johnny led the group incredibly well last season and obviously led the team to two finals.

“Hopefully he’s going to play a huge part in Ireland progressing at the World Cup but it’s the status quo as things stand.”

After pre-season wins over Coventry, Canada and Northampton Saints, Cullen’s side are now entering the final stages of preparation for their campaign opener away at Benetton on 28 September.

leo-cullen Cullen speaking at the Aviva Stadium today. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

It has been a long pre-season block for the players given the delayed start to the new season and Leinster have suffered a double injury blow following the news Barry Daly will be sidelined for up to five months and Ciaran Frawley is out of action for six to eight weeks.

Daly suffered a knee injury in training and has had to go under the knife to repair damage in what is another cruel setback for the winger/fullback, who has endured his fair share of injury frustration in recent seasons.

While disappointed to lose Daly before the start of the season, Cullen is confident he has enough depth in the back three to absorb the loss of the 26-year-old following the return of Cian Kelleher from Connacht.

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“Losing players in pre-season is tough for guys, whatever about once you’re back in competitive games,” Cullen added. “We’ll get them right, get them back as soon as possible.

James [Lowe] obviously had surgery at the end of last season as well. He’s nearing a return, he’s back training. He’s not quite doing contact yet but he’s not a million miles away.

“Dave Kearney came back in as well [after missing out on Ireland's World Cup squad]. Cian has come back from the west as well and he has looked sharp over the course of pre-season. We’ve numerous other guys there so we have decent depth in the back three.”

Cullen also confirmed Devin Toner returned to training with Leinster last week following his shock omission from Schmidt’s final 31 for Japan, with the second row set to be available for the trip to Treviso on Saturday week. 

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Ryan Bailey

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