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Lancaster: Johnny's fine to go

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Sixteen weeks after he last played for them, Leinster give update on Johnny Sexton's availability

Johnny Sexton has yet to play for Leinster in 2019, but assistant coach Stuart Lancaster is confident the Ireland out-half will finally be declared fit to make his long-awaited provincial comeback.

Sexton was initially injured in a PRO14 match at Munster on December 29 and while he recovered to start all five matches for Ireland in the Six Nations, he returned to his club with a quad issue and has yet to play since his country’s March 16 Six Nations defeat to Wales.

That lay-off has meant Sexton hasn’t been seen provincially in nearly 16 weeks, but Lancaster has provided grounds for optimism that he will face Toulouse in Dublin in next Sunday’s European semi-final.

Lancaster said on Tuesday: “Yeah, he has trained today. Much can happen between now and the weekend but he has trained today… he’s fine to go. It’s good to get him back.

“It’s not just him. You have fingers crossed that Robbie (Henshaw) will come through. He’s just back. Dev Toner as well. There is a lot of players who have been out with injury who we have been waiting to get back and it’s nice to get them back this week.

“It was good last week as well. Obviously, disappointing to lose (to Glasgow) but for Seanie (O’Brien) to get another game under his belt, it allowed us to rest James Ryan, Jack Conan and Garry Ringrose so they are fresh for this week. We’re looking in a decent shape injury wise… Tadhg (Furlong) should be okay.”

In this third season at Leinster, former England boss Lancaster has experienced emotions at opposite ends of the spectrum concerning the Irish province in recent European semi-finals.

They were beaten by Clermont in Lyon 24 months ago but bounced back last year to beat Scarlets in Dublin en route to lifting the trophy for the first time since 2012. They are now facing Toulouse for the third time this season having placed each other in winter pool matches where the results in Ireland and France went in favour of the home side.

“Everything’s on the line in a semi-final,” said Lancaster. “We found that two years ago when we lost against Clermont. The pain of losing that semi-final is still etched in everyone’s memory.

“We will prepare well because we know Toulouse well but equally they will know us inside out as well. Their ability to prepare and scout against us was impressive. We could see they clearly understood what they were trying to do against us and it’s one-all in the series.

“When you are a coach you draw on both experiences. You draw on the positives of winning a final last year, the adaptability we showed in that final, the positivity of beating a quality side like Saracens in a quarter-final and Scarlets in a semi-final.

“They were both at home and you draw on all that, but also you would be naive not to learn from when you have lost in the past as well. Whether it was Glasgow at the weekend, what could we have done better, we never skip around a difficult conversation about a review.

“We always draw learning from it so we can become a better team. If you have always got that mindset then you are always going to be there or thereabouts. Often sometimes the easy thing to do is ignore the difficult scenarios or the defeats, but actually that is sometimes the best learning.”

WATCH: The RugbyPass fly-on-the-wall look at the 2018 PRO14 final

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Sixteen weeks after he last played for them, Leinster give update on Johnny Sexton's availability