Boost for Leinster as injuries clear ahead of Exeter trip
A dentist’s drill might have been regarded with more affection than the phalanx of tape recorders that enveloped in turn, Leinster forwards’ coach Jono Gibbes, Eoin Reddan and Sean O’Brien when the topic of Jonathan Sexton and a possible transfer to Racing Metro 92 was broached.
All three kicked to touch on the subject, understandably, some imparting a little more spin but the message was unanimous: everyone wants the 27-year-old Leinster and Ireland outhalf to maintain his current employment. There was also unanimity in explaining that the first they’d heard of the matter was yesterday morning.
Gibbes ventured: “My personal preference is of course that we want to keep Johnny (Sexton) at Leinster. He’s grown up in the area, been a big part of what we have achieved. We think that he can contribute massively to anything in the future.”
Reddan offered: “Johnny is a really good fiend of mine and I hope he stays. I can’t stress that enough. I don’t know how big or how serious the stuff is but, to me, I’m hoping the news is he is going to be staying.”
O’Brien was succinct on the matter of Sexton’s billet-doux as the French probably wouldn’t say. “There’s always speculation around contract time and I wouldn’t read too much into it to be honest.”
The focus for Leinster and indeed their outstanding outhalf over the next few days is to prepare for Saturday’s final pool match against the Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park.
The medical prognosis is good. Brian O’Driscoll tweaked his right ankle – the one he didn’t have surgery on – in the victory over the Scarlets at the RDS but a precautionary scan revealed no serious damage and Gibbes confirmed that he would train today.
Available for selection
Kevin McLaughlin has recovered from a knock to a shoulder that forced him out of last weekend’s match and trained yesterday where he was joined by Richardt Strauss (knee ligaments) and O’Brien; the latter was a late withdrawal from the Leinster team for the Scarlets match because of illness. All four will be available for selection. There was one other brief contractual inquiry involving Leinster’s Springbok loosehead Heinke van der Merwe who has been linked, through the French newspaper Midi Olympique, with a possible move to Stade Francais. Gibbes concentrated on extolling the virtues of the loosehead prop rather than entering into any conjecture.
The challenge that the Exeter Chiefs will pose has been exercising the New Zealander’s thoughts. “Exeter have been broken down for (more than) four points at home once. Wasn’t it those guys in yellow (Clermont Auvergne, 46-12)? Our preparations needs to be realistic about what we are facing and have to be focused on getting a foothold physically in that game first and being really clinical. Exeter at home have got a serious backbone.”