Lancaster ‘optimistic’ Johnny Sexton will be fit to face Bath

Ireland outhalf limped off injured during Leinster’s Champions Cup win on Saturday

Leinster’s Johnny Sexton is subsitituted injured during their Champions Cup win over Bath. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Leinster’s Johnny Sexton is subsitituted injured during their Champions Cup win over Bath. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Robbie Henshaw could miss the start of the Six Nations Championship after a further assessment on his hamstring injury suggested he could be out for up to another eight weeks.

The Leinster centre picked a hamstring injury in the warm-up ahead of Ireland’s game against Argentina last month. The initial prognosis was that he would be out for four to six weeks but following a medical review at Leinster the injury is more severe and the timeframe for the rehabilitation process has been pushed back.

Ireland’s opening game of their Six Nations defence is against England at the Aviva stadium on Saturday, February 2nd (4.45) and even if he proves to be, as he has in the past, a quick healer, it would leave him short on match practice.

From a provincial perspective it is a significant blow for Leinster as the Champions Cup holder look to extricate themselves from their pool with a game against Bath next Saturday and fixtures against Toulouse and Wasps in January.

Leinster’s 17-10 victory over Bath at the Recreation Ground on Saturday also spawned other injury issues with captain and outhalf Johnny Sexton limping off in the second half with a calf injury.

‘Optimistic’

Senior coach Stuart Lancaster was “optimistic” and “hopeful” that the Irish pivot will be fit to play but that will be predicated on how the calf reacts during what will be a curtailed training regimen this week for the world player of the year. They will give him every opportunity to prove his fitness.

Stuart Lancaster explained: “We’re optimistic, hopeful but you couldn’t say for definite at the moment. He got a bang on his calf, which has meant that he is going to be limited as to what he can do at the start of the week. We will give him as long a time as possible.

“If he is not we have every confidence in Ross (Byrne). I think the progress he’s made certainly in the course of the last 12 months in particular (has been impressive). He played well in the November internationals when he got his opportunity. I thought he was excellent against the Dragons, one of the best performances I have seen him play. He is certainly confident and ready to go if Johnny is not.”

The province also confirmed that scrumhalf Nick McCarthy will be out for 12 weeks with a foot injury and that invites further complications in terms of selection. Scott Fardy missed out on playing in Bath because only two foreign players are permitted in the matchday squad.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen chose New Zealanders James Lowe – the wing suffered in respect of the regulations last season – and Jamison Gibson Park, a policy that could be perpetuated given McCarthy’s injury. Gibson Park is likely to commandeer one place and Cullen will have to choose between Lowe and Fardy.

Dan Leavy and Jordan Larmour came through the game with no ill effects as did second half replacements Jack Conan and Rory O’Loughlin. Barry Daly has returned to on-pitch training following a knee injury.    

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