An Irish media guessing game regarding Johnny Sexton’s health was finally provided with an official update on Friday after Leinster unveiled their XV to face Northampton on Saturday in Dublin.

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Ever since Sexton was injured during his province’s comprehensive round three win over the Saints at Franklin’s Gardens last Saturday, there has been much media speculation surrounding the well-being of the talisman playmaker’s knee. 

Some media had him ruled out of the early part of the 2020 Six Nations under incoming Ireland boss Andy Farrell while others speculated he would be back fit in time for his country’s campaign which opens on February 1 versus Scotland if not even before then in the Champions Cup with Leinster. 

It has now emerged that those predicting he would be raring to go for the start of the Farrell era might have had the better hunch, judging by what Leinster boss Leo Cullen had to say at a media conference ahead of Saturday’s European game which is set to attract a crowd in excess of 40,000 to Aviva Stadium.

“He is seeing somebody in the UK and he will go back there just to get an update in a couple of weeks,” explained Cullen about what has been going on this week with his veteran out-half after he seemed to hurt some knee ligaments at Northampton. 

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“But he is working hard to try and get himself back as quickly as possible. He won’t be a million miles away hopefully. He is making good progress.

“You could see he twisted his knee and, like I said, he is seeing a specialist. He is under control and on the mend now.”

The million dollar question, though, was when precisely fans might see Sexton back on the field of play in 2020 – with Leinster in Europe, with Ireland at the start of the Six Nations or deeper into that campaign under Farrell?

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Cullen leaned towards the second option. “You would love if he was back (for Leinster), but it’s probably more realistic for Ireland, I think, yeah.”

With Sexton currently laid-up, the Leinster captaincy for their rematch with the Saints has passed onto Scott Fardy, the Australian who will lead an XV that is also minus Ronan Kelleher, the impressive young hooker who has suffered a hand injury.

LEINSTER: 15. Jordan Larmour; 14. Dave Kearney, 13. Garry Ringrose, 12. Robbie Henshaw, 11. James Lowe; 10. Ross Byrne, 9. Luke McGrath; 1. Cian Healy, 2. James Tracy, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Scott Fardy (capt), 5. James Ryan, 6. Rhys Ruddock, 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. Caelan Doris. Reps: 16. Bryan Byrne, 17. Ed Byrne, 18. Andrew Porter, 19. Devin Toner, 20. Max Deegan, 21. Jamison Gibson-Park, 22. Ciaran Frawley, 23. Rob Kearney.

NORTHAMPTON: 15. Ahsee Tuala; 14. Ollie Sleightholme, 13. Matt Proctor, 12. Andy Symons, 11. Taqele Naiyaravoro; 10. Dan Biggar, 9. Connor Tupai; 1. Francois van Wyk, 2. Michael Van Vuuren, 3. Paul Hill, 4. Api Ratuniyarawa, 5. Alex Coles, 6. Tom Wood (capt), 7. Jamie Gibson, 8. Lewis Ludlam. Reps: 16. Sam Matavesi, 17. Alex Waller, 18. Ehren Painter, 19. Lewis Bean, 20. JJ Tonks, 21. James Mitchell, 22. James Grayson, 23. Fraser Dingwall.

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