Leinster rugby, and by extension, Ireland, have received a massive boost as pivotal play maker and point scorer Jonathan Sexton has been named on the 23 man squad to face Zebre in the Pro 12 on Friday.
Announced by head coach Leo Cullen, Sexton’s inclusion is a timely boost for province and country as the Six Nations less looms and Leinster pushing for top honours in the Pro 12.
Having been absent since limping off against New Zealand in Dublin back in November, Sexton’s recovery and subsequent inclusion will see fans watching the player closely, hoping that he has now put his injuries behind him.
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) January 5, 2017
Following his latest injury in that famous Autumn test series, there had been talks that perhaps it was time to implement a sabbatical policy that would see Sexton take time out of the game to allow his body recover fully from a string of hard knocks and niggles he has sustained in recent years.
This is a policy that has been successfully adopted in the southern hemisphere and in particular with New Zealand. Dan Carter and Richie McCaw both took time out to ensure they could continue to perform to the peak of their abilities.
Speaking at the pre-match news conference and reported via the Leinster Rugby website, head coach Cullen hasa pragmatic view on Sexton’s injury troubles.
“As you well know, he’s trained the last couple of weeks, he’s been involved with the team. He’s good to go this weekend.
“Johnny’s played a lot of games over the course of his career. It’s a constant challenge for guys to try and physically get stronger. We’ll see how he goes. We’re constantly assessing him and he’s come through training well over the last couple of weeks.
“He’s had other soft tissue injuries over the years. In terms of hamstrings, I don’t think it’s been a major problem. With what’s coming up (European fixtures with Montpellier and Zebre) it was important to take a more conservative course of action. Time will tell how good this period has been for the player. He’s in good spirits and he’s trained well. He’s looking forward to get back playing.”
With Sexton now back and fit to play, the hope is that he can avoid any further injury ahead of and during the Six Nations. This year the championship is a veritable audition for British and Irish Lions places and should he remain fit, Leinster’s number 10 is a shoe-in for what will likely be his last Lions tour.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena