Leinster not expected to risk Johnny Sexton against Glasgow
‘To play our type of game we need to be 100% fit,’ says backs coach Felipe Contepomi
Leinster’s Johnny Sexton will likely be rested for the Pro14 clash with Glasgow this weekend. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Leinster are not expected to risk Johnny Sexton’s improving quad injury against Glasgow in a somewhat diluted Pro14 fixture at the RDS this Saturday.
The champions have already secured a home semi-final as winners of Conference B while the visitors are three points clear of Munster in Conference A with two games remaining in the regular season.
“He has to be fit,” stated backs coach Felipe Contepomi. “He’s 33, played so many games in his life, so it is not like he has to feel the game. That’s his case. Other cases might also need games. Everyone is individual, everyone is different.”
Devin Toner and Robbie Henshaw – cleared following ankle and leg surgeries – are both expected to feature. The Ireland duo, equally missed during the Six Nations, are attempting to force their way into the reckoning ahead of Toulouse’s visit to Dublin on Sunday week, for the Champions Cup semi-final at the Aviva Stadium, but Sexton’s situation is being viewed with more caution.
“To play our type of game we need to be 100 per cent fit,” Contepomi continued. “If we have any doubts, we are lucky enough to have good depth in the squad. Sometimes we take other decisions. For [Sexton], it is important to come back training. With training, you get cohesion, you get match fitness and because of the way we train we can assess that in training.”
Usually Sexton would be priming himself for Toulouse – it’s not a serious injury – having only featured eight times in blue in this campaign, the last outing being the defeat to Munster on December 29th. But his season doesn’t really start until the Scotland game in Yokohama on September 22nd, so the RDS remains the playground of Ross Byrne and Ciarán Frawley.
“Attack them more,” was Contepomi’s answer, his stubbornness as a player briefly visible, when asked about Byrne struggling in the face of Ulster’s recent rush defence.
Byrne did stretch through cramp to slot the winning goal in last month’s quarter-final, but he must cope with constant comparisons to a living Leinster legend he works alongside every day. Contepomi was the master of conjuring space for such a prolonged period that Sexton had reached Byrne’s current age (24 yesterday) before claiming the 10 jersey.
“Ulster, in fairness, played a really good game,” said Contepomi.
“They kind of squeezed us and we needed more tempo and trying to play quicker to take the edges. It is something we are working on. We know a lot of teams will put on a lot of pressure or slow down the breakdown because that is the way to slow teams that have the intent to play.”
The message from UCD on April Monday was repeatedly clear: Leinster will keep seeking to attack with rapid precision but they must do so without Sexton for at least another week. It’s safe to assume any desire to put unnecessary strain on his injury-prone body – from the player, the club and certainly his pay masters on Lansdowne Road – remains lukewarm.
Noel Reid is following return-to-play protocols after sustaining a head injury against Treviso, Rory O’Loughlin suffered a “minor hamstring injury” and Ross Molony is also a doubt. The only players listed as “unavailable for selection” are Mick Kearney (shoulder), Josh van der Flier (groin) and Dan Leavy (knee).