Johnny Sexton in the frame to return for Leinster

Ireland outhalf could be back in action in the New Year’s Eve clash against Ulster

 Johnny Sexton: set to return for Leinster against Ulster at the RDS on New Year’s Eve.  Photograph: Inpho/Camerasport

Johnny Sexton: set to return for Leinster against Ulster at the RDS on New Year’s Eve. Photograph: Inpho/Camerasport

 

Johnny Sexton is nearing fitness, again. The 31-year-old could feature in the New Year’s Eve game against Ulster at the RDS.

“Johnny trained today fully,” said Leinster coach Leo Cullen. “He looked pretty good out there so we are pretty hopeful he will come through the week.

“Johnny was full of life today. He is keen to get back involved as soon as possible.”

Sexton has not played since tearing both hamstrings playing for Ireland in November. This has led to a prolonged period of rehabilitation at the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry as a more specific process was introduced to help heal the injury-prone outhalf’s latest issues.

Leinster have little to no control of their starting Ireland players as they are plucked in and out of their training base.

“Yeah, and that’s the case with some of the national players and with the Irish medical team as well,” said Cullen.

Second Captains

“He is a nationally contracted player. We want to try and do what’s best for Johnny.

“He’s dying to get back involved now at this stage because it has been a frustrating period for him being on the sideline watching his team-mates playing in Europe and on the weekend as well. But he looked sharp out there today.”

Sexton returns to Santry this week for further treatment.

Eight injuries

Connacht

Ultan Dillane could be facing a prolonged period on the sideline following an ankle injury while South African outhalf Marnitz Boshoff is struggling to return by March following shoulder surgery. Boshoff played just one match since his arrival in Galway.

There is no update on Rob Kearney’s ankle but Sean O’Brien, Jack McGrath, Josh van der Flier, Jamie Heaslip, Devin Toner and Garry Ringrose were all visible at training in UCD yesterday.

That indicates a full Leinster XV will take the field come Saturday afternoon.

“Most of them are back,” added Cullen. “If you look at our backline, we’re really skinny with backs at the moment. Obviously we had a couple of guys that retired towards the end of last season if you think of Luke Fitzgerald, Eoin (Reddan) as well.

“Then Ross Byrne was our only fit number 10 last week at the club, and he’s an academy player, so there are certain positions that our very very thin. In the back three we’ve been stretched as well.”

However, the focus will be on Sexton, either from the bench, meaning Ross Byrne would start, or in the starting number 10 jersey the Ireland outhalf has worn all too infrequently since returning from Paris.

Sexton has played only four Leinster matches this season and 16 last season before requiring shoulder surgery after a heavy hit in the Pro 12 final defeat to Connacht last May.

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