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Johnny Sexton denied final audition before Lions squad announcement

By Liam Heagney

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Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton will miss out on a final chance to press his claims for Lions tour selection as an ongoing concussion problem has made him unavailable to Leinster for this Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final away to La Rochelle. 

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Sexton exited the April 10 quarter-final win at Exeter following a bang to the head that took place just two weeks after he had taken another blow in the Guinness PRO14 final win over Munster.

It left him doubtful to be ready in time for the May 2 semi-final in France against Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle and Leinster have now ended speculation about his fitness by ruling him out of contention five days before the game.  

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A medical bulletin from the Irish province read: “Unavailable for selection, Johnny Sexton: Will continue to train and be assessed as part of the graduated return to play process.”

With Dan Biggar in excellent form at Northampton, and Owen Farrell and Finn Russell in respective action for Saracens and Racing, Sexton would have been hoping to be fit for the semi-final in order to make a final play for No10 selection in the Lions squad that will be announced by Warren Gatland on May 6.  

While Sexton has been ruled out of the European match, Leinster have stated that James Ryan and Garry Ringrose, who made their comebacks last Saturday versus Munster following recent injury, will be fit to play. Further assessments are required, though, for the likes of Jamison Gibson-Park and Caelan Doris. 

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The Leinster bulletin added: ‘Available for selection, James Ryan: Came through his first game back after injury with no issues and will continue to train as normal this week. Garry Ringrose: Came through his first game back after injury with no issues and will continue to train as normal this week.

“Further assessment required, Jamison Gibson-Park: Still being managed with a hamstring injury and will be further assessed this week ahead of selection. Caelan Doris: Picked up a minor calf injury during the captain’s run on Friday and will be further assessed this week. Harry Byrne: Was replaced early in the game against Munster with a hamstring injury and will be further assessed this week.”

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Johnny Sexton denied final audition before Lions squad announcement

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