Johnny Sexton set for New Year’s Day return against Connacht

Leinster outhalf is back training after missing the St Stephen’s Day win over Munster

Leinster and Irish outhalf Johnny Sexton is expected to take a full part in Leinster's squad training at UCD on Thursday. Assuming that goes smoothly Sexton will be available for selection to face Connacht on New Year's Day.

The 32-year-old was unavailable for Leinster's win over Munster in an epic match at Thomond Park on St Stephen's Day following his removal from Leinster's game against Exeter Chiefs in the European Champions Cup.

Following time out to follow return to play protocols for suspected concussion Sexton is now back training.

More good news for Leinster coach Leo Cullen is that flanker Sean O'Brien is also due to return to training this week. O'Brien also sat out the win over Munster when he was pulled for unspecified knocks, which he had taken with him into the Exeter meeting.

His inclusion is not certain as he will be assessed later this week before a decision is made.

Less encouraging news for Cullen is that his St Stephen's Day captain Jack McGrath will not be available to play against Connacht. Cullen will also be without Irish hooker Richardt Strauss and lock James Ryan for the visit of the western province to the RDS on Monday.

Like Sexton, McGrath was withdrawn for a Head Injury Assessment at half-time of the win over Munster and didn't return. He is now undergoing return to play protocols. Ryan, fell awkwardly and twisted his ankle following a lineout in the first half of the same match with Strauss injuring his back having come on as a replacement for James Tracy.

The progress of Irish winger Adam Byrne is being monitored following a knee injury, he is also in a race against time with a call on his fitness being made later this week.

Rhys Ruddock (hamstring), Joey Carbery (arm), Jamie Heaslip (lower back) and Tom Daly (knee) all remain long term injuries.

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