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Dublin: 3°C Thursday 3 December 2020

Cullen says Six Nations is the target for Sexton

The Leinster out-half is seeing a specialist in the UK as he battles a knee ligament injury.

Leinster’s Johnny Sexton.
Leinster’s Johnny Sexton.
Image: Ryan Byrne; ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne/INPHO

LEO CULLEN IS optimistic on Johnny Sexton’s chances of recovering from his knee ligament injury in time for Ireland’s Six Nations campaign, but stopped short of providing a timeframe for his return.

The Leinster out-half damaged his knee in last week’s 43-16 defeat of Northampton, and speaking ahead of Saturday’s return fixture at the Aviva Stadium, Cullen said that the injury is ‘under control’ after Sexton visited a specialist in the UK.

“He’s seeing somebody in the UK and he’ll go back there just to get an update in a couple of weeks, but he’s working hard to try and get himself back as quickly as possible, but he won’t be a million miles away hopefully,” said Cullen.

“You could see he twisted his knee, and like I said he’s seeing a specialist. He’s under control and on the mend now.”

The Leinster head coach also confirmed that while he would hope to see Sexton back in the blue of Leinster early in the new year, it is more likely that the out-half will aim his recovery towards Andy Farrell’s first Six Nations campaign as Ireland head coach.

“Yeah well you would love if he was back [for Leinster], but it’s probably more realistic for Ireland, I think, yeah.” 

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Cullen has made five changes to his Leinster team for tomorrow’s clash against the Saints, with Scott Fardy, Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath, James Tracy and Tadhg Furlong all coming into the starting XV.

Byrne steps into Sexton’s shoes for his first European start of the season, and Cullen is backing the 24-year-old to deliver as Leinster look record an 11th straight win in all competitions.

“That’s the thing, the layers of experience that Ross has picked up over the last three or four years has been fantastic, and he’s waiting for these opportunities every time he gets them,” Cullen said.

“I thought he led the team well when we were away in Glasgow a few weeks ago, in terms of his on-field leadership, and even when he steps into the team last weekend, whatever it is, 42 or 43 minutes, he’s a very commanding presence in the group. He has a very clean understanding, obviously missing out on World Cup selection, he comes back to us a little bit earlier, so he’s been great for us so far this year.”  

Bernard Jackman joined Murray Kinsella and Sean Farrell in studio to chat about the remarkable John Cooney and the Ireland captaincy. 

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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