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Sexton aims to cement his place

With the Six Nations over, Ireland's prospective summer tourists have a dwindling number of games to prove themselves to coach Declan Kidney, and today's Magners League clash between Leinster and Connacht at the RDS (4.30) represents one of those occasions.

Jonathan Sexton slots straight back in at out-half after starting Ireland's 23-20 defeat to Scotland last weekend. Sexton had a good Six Nations championship but was let down by poor place-kicking and today represents an opportunity to get back in the groove off the tee.

Ireland kicking coach Mark Tainton and Leinster counterpart Richie Murphy have the joint responsibility of getting Sexton back above an 80pc place-kicking return and you would back them to work together and achieve that, for Sexton has shown his proficiency in this regard many times for Leinster — and for Ireland against South Africa in November.

The other significant selection sees Mike Ross start his second game in succession at tight-head prop. This would not seem such a big deal if it were not for Ireland's obvious scrummaging difficulties during the Six Nations and for the fact that of Ross' 11 Magners League appearances this season, only three have not been as a replacement for overseas props CJ van der Linde and Stan Wright.

Having coped comfortably with the considerable scrummaging threat that is Glasgow loose-head Jon Welsh last time out, Ross is up against fellow Ireland squad member Brett Wilkinson today.

Leinster top the table on 38 points and are on a run of 12 successive league victories at the RDS. That should be 13 after today and Connacht coach Michael Bradley would be thrilled if his team could escape with a losing bonus point.

Belfast Telegraph

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