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Carbery poised for Champions Cup start as Sexton continues recovery

Meanwhile, senior coach Stuart Lancaster is confident Sean O’Brien will be fit for Friday’s trip to Northampton.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

JOEY CARBERY LOOKS set to earn his second Champions Cup start for Leinster on Friday night as Johnny Sexton continues his recovery from a hamstring injury sustained on international duty.

Leinster take on Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens in a log-jammed Pool 4, all four sides having won once and lost once from their opening two games.

There had been speculation in recent weeks that Sexton could take an extended break from playing for the province after suffering a succession of injuries.

However, Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster expects the Ireland fly-half to return within “weeks rather than months”.

“He’s on a rehab programme to get him back fully fit,” Lancaster explained at Leinster Rugby HQ this afternoon.

“It’s not a serious injury but clearly there’s been one or two hamstring injuries that have come along one week here, one week there.

“So I think Ireland and Leinster have correctly made the right call and put the player at the centre and decided to get that sorted once and for all.”

Sexton’s unavailability opens the door for Carbery to earn his first Champions Cup away start, having played the full 80 minutes in the RDS win against Castres and being introduced as a half-time substitute for Sexton in the away loss to Montpellier.

It’s been quite a few months for the 21-year-old, making his Test debut for Ireland in the Chicago victory against the All Blacks before earning further caps against Canada and Australia.

Carbery has been a revelation this season for Leo Cullen’s side and Lancaster has been amazed by his development in such a short space of time, having been playing in the AIL for Clontarf just six months ago.

“It’s an opportunity for Joey Carbery to step up into the position and to be honest he’s done it brilliantly.

He’s the player for me, since I arrived, who has grown in a leadership role. From being the quiet guy in the room to the guy leading the meeting in two months, which is incredible.

“I’m hugely excited about seeing him play.

“Johnny will be back sooner rather than later. I don’t think we’re talking months by any stretch of the imagination.

“I suspect it won’t be for this weekend but Joey is playing great rugby at the moment. He’s flying.”

Stuart Lancaster Stuart Lancaster at today's press conference. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Sean O’Brien is another leading Leinster player who is under an injury cloud ahead of Friday’s game, a hip flexor issue ruling him out on the eve of Ireland’s clash with Australia nine days ago. But Lancaster is hopeful he will be available to take on the Saints.

“We’re pretty optimistic he’s going to be right for Friday,” Lancaster said of the Carlow back rower.

“I think Ireland made the right call leaving him out.

“It’s the type of injury that you can easily make worse if you play.”

Robbie Henshaw and Rob Kearney (both head) have trained non-contact as part of their graduated return to play protocols.

Prop Michael Bent (calf), centre Noel Reid (foot) and flankers Rhys Ruddock and Dominic Ryan (both calf) will have their injuries further assessed later this week.

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Alan Waldron

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