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Leinster still not sure if Sexton will be fit for Champions Cup semi-final date with La Rochelle

By Sam Smith
Johnny Sexton, Leinster and Ireland outhalf. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

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Leinster head coach Leo Cullen admitted he is still not sure if captain Johnny Sexton will be available for the province’s massive Champions Cup semi-final meeting with La Rochelle this weekend.

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Sexton has been stood down from action as he undergoes ‘further assessment’ following a series of head injuries this year. The Ireland out-half has been removed from the pitch in games against Wales, Munster and Exeter in recent months.

And Cullen says the province still aren’t certain if their star out-half will get the green light to line out against La Rochelle this Sunday.

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“We’ll see,” Cullen said. “We’ll do the full array of tests and he’ll see whoever he needs to see, and we’ll see how he comes through the week.”

Leinster suffered another injury setback ahead of last Saturday’s Rainbow Cup defeat to Munster as Caelan Doris suffered a calf injury on the eve of his long-awaited return from injury.

Doris hasn’t played since January, missing Ireland’s Six Nations campaign due to concussion issues, but was named to play against Munster before suffering an injury in Friday’s Captain’s Run.

Cullen is also unsure if scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park will be available this weekend.

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“Yeah, a bit more difficult certainly for Caelan. It would have been good to get him any game time really, just to see where he’s at but, again, we’ll see how he turns that calf around. He’s trained over the last number of weeks which is the positive piece with him. He was raring to go so that’s just the way it played out.

“Jamison, we’re just being conservative with him. It’s whether you take the step on any given week so that’s kind of the dilemma that we’re on so obviously the longer we leave him, the better he’ll be but it’s just whether we’re willing to take a chance or not so we’ll manage him appropriately over the course of the week.”

There was better news on Garry Ringrose and James Ryan, who both lasted an hour against Munster on their own returns from injury.

“I thought they’ve been good this week,” Cullen said of the pair.

“We’ll wait and see how everyone has pulled through and make some calls over the course of the next few days as to what we think is best for the challenge of La Rochelle.

“Obviously their (Top 14) game got called off. They were due to face Brive this weekend so we’ll have a look back again at them and make some calls but we have a lot of tight calls across the group but it’s good to have two players of their experience and calibre coming back into the mix at this time of year, which is a positive because off the back of the Six Nations and the run of games we had, we definitely had a lengthy injury list so it’s good to have a couple of guys coming back into the mix now.

“We know it’s going to be a great challenge. They’re in great form. You saw in their game against Sale how dangerous they are. They’ve got a good mix of power and pace like a lot of the French teams that we know. So, yeah, an amazing challenge going off there next week.”

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PRO 14    

Leinster still not sure if Sexton will be fit for Champions Cup semi-final date with La Rochelle

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