Cheika full of acclaim for team's ability to 'get back into groove'
Published 22/02/2010 | 05:00
Leinster coach Michael Cheika believes Jonathan Sexton is "improving every day" after the out-half turned in a man-of-the-match display in the 27-14 Magners League win over Edinburgh on Saturday night
Sexton scored 22 points courtesy of a try and six placed kicks from seven, making a strong case for his inclusion in Ireland's team to face England at Twickenham next weekend.
And Cheika, while stopping short of calling for Sexton or his half-back partner Eoin Reddan to be reinstated by Ireland coach Declan Kidney, said he was happy that his players had risen to the challenge.
"He (Sexton) is improving every day," said Cheika. "I like the fact when positioned with the challenge, he's coming to meet it, he's not looking to get away from it.
"Now whether that's good enough to get him picked is up to the national coach but I like the fact that himself, Eoin Reddan, Shane Horgan stood up to the challenge.
"Girvan Dempsey got back into the groove pretty quickly too. I know people are talking about Ireland and that but he wants to play here because he knows if he earns his spot here he can get into that environment."
The fractured leg injury sustained by back-row Sean O'Brien is a serious blow for Leinster and Ireland and Cheika said it means the Heineken Cup champions are stretched in the back row, although he was pleased with the performance of O'Brien's replacement, Stephen Keogh, on Saturday.
"Sean's very disappointed obviously, for his personal situation, he's starting to get involved in the international side - and also from our team situation, if there's one position we're a bit light on it's the back-row.
"Stephen Keogh had a bit of hiatus from the senior team since his first year in and now it's in his court, I'd back him to do it too, I thought he did well when he came on."
Leinster's captain on the night, Shane Jennings is in line to take O'Brien's place in the Ireland 22, and had a powerful game against the Scarlets but his thoughts were for his injured colleague rather than next weekend's international.
"I'm not really thinking about that," he said. "There's a fellah in there who's very down and it's not nice when you see a team-mate like that, and a good lad like Sean ... he's playing very very well.
"It's pretty hard to take because they're not easy injuries to get over. Hopefully he'll make a speedy recovery, all our thoughts are with him."