Johnny Sexton to make Leinster return against Harlequins on Friday

Outhalf has not played since suffering a head injury against Exeter in April

Johnny Sexton will captain Leinster in the pre-season match against Harlequins at the Aviva Stadium on Friday night. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Johnny Sexton will captain Leinster in the pre-season match against Harlequins at the Aviva Stadium on Friday night. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Johnny Sexton will play his first match in five months when he captains Leinster in Friday night’s pre-season game against Harlequins at the Aviva Stadium (7.0).

Sexton’s last game was the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final away to Exeter on April 10th when he went off just before the half-hour mark with a head injury. He subsequently sat out the semi-final defeat to La Rochelle and the Pro 14 run-in and missed out on selection for the Lions’ tour to South Africa.

Sexton captains a squad that includes eight academy players, with four of those yet to play for the senior team.

There is also a welcome return from injury for Conor O’Brien and Max Deegan.

Chris Cosgrave, in his first year in the Leinster academy, starts at fullback, with the UCD man also joined by another year one player in Rob Russell on the right wing. Completing the back three is James Lowe who is back from injury and will take his place on the left wing.

In the centre O’Brien will partner academy back Jamie Osborne for the first time, with the Westmeath man back from injury and making his first appearance in a Leinster shirt since February 2020.

Luke McGrath is selected at scrumhalf alongside Sexton.

The frontrow sees Peter Dooley and Dan Sheehan joined by new arrival Michael Ala’alatoa for his first taste of Leinster action. The Samoan international arrived from the Crusaders during the summer.

Devin Toner is joined by Wexford’s Brian Deeny in the secondrow. This will be Deeny’s first taste of senior action as he is also back from a long injury layoff.

In the backrow, Cullen has gone with the experienced trio of Rhys Ruddock, Scott Penny and Max Deegan. Deegan has been out for almost a year with a long-term knee injury.

LEINSTER (v Harlequins, Aviva Stadium, Friday, 7.0): Chris Cosgrave; Rob Russell, Jamie Osborne, Conor O’Brien, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (capt), Luke McGrath; Peter Dooley, Dan Sheehan, Michael Ala’alatoa; Devin Toner, Brian Deeny; Rhys Ruddock, Scott Penny, Max Deegan.

Replacements: Cian Healy, Seán Cronin, James Tracy, Vakh Abdaladze, Ross Molony, Ryan Baird, Martin Moloney, Cormac Foley, Ross Byrne, David Hawkshaw, Liam Turner, Niall Comerford.

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