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Byrne primed for Leinster's 10 shirt with Sexton set to miss out

Stuart Lancaster has backed Byrne to step up against Toulouse this weekend.

LEINSTER ARE SET to be without captain Johnny Sexton for Saturday’s pivotal Heineken Cup clash with Toulouse at the RDS, meaning Ross Byrne is primed for a big opportunity in the 10 shirt.

Ross Byrne Ross Byrne is in line to start for Leinster. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

As first reported by Des Berry of The Herald, Sexton is expected to miss out due to a calf complaint.

The 33-year-old out-half was replaced for the final quarter of Leinster’s defeat to Munster two weekends ago and had ice applied to his right calf.

It’s believed that Sexton’s calf issue will not keep him sidelined beyond this weekend and does not put his involvement in the upcoming Six Nations in doubt.

Byrne was, perhaps tellingly, an unused replacement in Leinster’s win over Ulster last weekend, as Ciarán Frawley was handed a start, with the Skerries man impressive at out-half.

23-year-old Byrne, who has two Ireland caps, has started important European games for Leinster before, impressing in his two starts against Montpellier in last season’s pool stages, guiding Cullen’s team to wins in both of those fixtures.

The composed out-half also performed strongly in last season’s Pro14 semi-final victory over Munster, underlining that he has the temperament and skill set to thrive in high-pressure games.

Johnny Sexton Sexton was replaced for the final quarter of Leinster's defeat in Munster. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Speaking on Monday, Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster stressed his belief that Byrne would be more than ready for the opportunity should Sexton miss out.

“I’ve got absolutely no doubt that Ross Byrne is ready to play at this level, in this competition,” said Lancaster.

“When you think of the games he played in last year for Leinster in Europe, there’s no doubt in our minds about Ross’ capability to play at this level and run the show. I actually think he’s been probably the most improved player that we’ve had over the course of the last 12 months and totally justified his call-up to Ireland.

“He trains consistently well. He’s benefitted from being sat underneath Johnny for two or three years. I can’t give him enough credit to how highly I personally regard him. He’s a leader, he runs the show. His kicking game is excellent, he’s ready 100%, enough said.”

Leinster are set to confirm their team to face Toulouse tomorrow, with Devin Toner also a doubt due to an ankle issue.

Cullen and Lancaster have strong options in the second row, however, with Scott Fardy and James Ryan set to start if Toner is ruled out.

Robbie Henshaw has returned to training with the province after making a full recovery from a hamstring issue and Lancaster stated that the Ireland international has been in contention for selection for Saturday’s game.

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Murray Kinsella

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