Belfast Telegraph

Injury woes convince Leinster to give Johnny Sexton a break

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

He won't feature against Dragons in Dublin this evening and his availability for next week's clash with Northampton Saints remains in question, but Johnny Sexton continued to dominate the discussion at Leinster's pre-match press conference yesterday.

Head coach Leo Cullen revealed that the Ireland out-half spent some of this week at the Santry Sports Clinic as he and his employers look to get to the bottom of his hamstring woes.

After Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt floated the notion that the 31-year-old could need some time out in order to get the problem rectified, there has been much discussion about the extent of the break, and Cullen brought some much-needed clarity to the issue yesterday.

Rather than taking an extended break from the game a la Isa Nacewa or Alex Corbisiero, the former second-row foresees his most important player taking three or four weeks to get to the bottom of his issue.

Cullen revealed that Sexton's latest issue is a Grade 1 hamstring strain on his right leg, similar to the injury to his left leg that ruled him out of the win over Castres and forced him off at half-time in the defeat to Montpellier.

The Leinster coach is in discussions with the Union, with whom Sexton is employed, about the best course of action.

"That's exactly it, it's just to try and get his body right," Cullen said.

"It's about trying to make sure next time he comes back and plays, whenever that may be, he's in the best possible shape.

"He's had two hamstring tears or strains, and we want to make sure he doesn't have another one," he said.

"He's one of the key assets in Irish rugby, one of the most important guys. There's a lot of combined thoughts coming together.

"But the most important thing is what's best for Johnny. So we need to get to the root of that," he added.

Tonight, Cullen fields a team with just four of the players capped by Ireland in November included as Leinster look to take a win into a pivotal period in their season, with the back-to-back European meetings with Northampton looming large.

With Sexton now a major doubt for those games, the performance of Joey Carbery will be closely watched given the key role he will play at Franklin's Gardens next week.

Belfast Telegraph

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