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Dublin: 20 °C Friday 19 July, 2019

Cullen provides positive news on Seán O'Brien's fitness ahead of Six Nations

The flanker is due back from a broken arm in the coming weeks.

SEÁN O’BRIEN IS on track to be in contention for Ireland’s upcoming Six Nations title defence as the flanker prepares to step up his on-field recovery from a broken arm.

O’Brien’s torrid injury luck continued last November when he sustained the break during Ireland’s Autumn Test win over Argentina, having only just returned from hip and shoulder problems.

Sean O'Brien O'Brien is nearing his injury comeback. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The 31-year-old had surgery to repair the damage but has made good progress in his rehab programme, and Leo Cullen this afternoon confirmed O’Brien is due back to Leinster team training next week.

“He’s due to return to training at some stage next week so we’ll see how he comes through that,” the Leinster head coach said. “He’s due back [to match fitness] in the next couple of weeks.”

When pressed if O’Brien is on course to be fit for the Six Nations, Cullen added: “I think so, yeah. But we have to be careful with this crystal ball I have here.”

Ireland open their title defence against England at the Aviva Stadium on 2 February, but it is unlikely O’Brien will be in contention for the opening rounds of the championship, having not played since November.

The Tullow native will likely have to get minutes under his belt for Leinster to prove his match fitness to Schmidt, with the eastern province’s Pro14 games against Scarlets, Zebre, the Kings and Cheetahs all falling just before or during the Six Nations window.

Cullen also downplayed any concerns over Johnny Sexton’s fitness ahead of the visit of England to Dublin, after it was confirmed the Ireland out-half is nursing a knee issue.

Sexton has been ruled out of Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup game against Toulouse at the RDS having sustained the injury at Thomond Park a fortnight ago. 

“Johnny is making good progress as we’ve said,” Cullen added.

He should be okay by then [England]. Players have to come through training so it’s not straightforward. Like I said, a number of these injuries have been training injuries, little niggles and there’s always big games coming up, so it’s important we’re doing right by the players.

Sexton is one of five frontline internationals out injured for tomorrow’s crunch Pool 1 encounter, with Devin Toner, Rob Kearney, Robbie Henshaw and Dan Leavy also sidelined. 

Toner is nursing a rolled ankle he suffered in training last week, Henshaw is close to making a full return from a hamstring strain, while Kearney and Leavy pulled up with quad and calf injuries respectively during the week.

Asked who, if any, will be back for the round six game away to Wasps next Sunday, Cullen said: “We’ll see how they come through, it’s hard to say exactly. Hopefully one or two of them at least.”

Ahead of a huge weekend of Heineken Champions Cup action, Murray Kinsella, Andy Dunne and Gavan Casey assess the provinces’ chances of putting a foot in the last eight:

Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

Subscribe to our new podcast, Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42, here:

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Ryan Bailey

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