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Perfect chance for Sexton to stake claim for England start

Leinster v Scarlets,

The RDS, tomorrow live Setanta 1 (ko 6.30)

This is a gilt-edged chance for Leinster half-backs Jonathan Sexton and Eoin Reddan to stake their claims for inclusion in the Ireland side to play England at Twickenham on Saturday week.

Of course, it is more likely that Declan Kidney will take one rather than both. Sexton must be on the cusp of returning to the No10 jersey as Ronan O'Gara struggled to cope with the physicality of Francois Trinh-Duc in Paris.

Flankers Kevin McLaughlin and Sean O'Brien will also be keen for game time as they continue to develop at a rate of knots. Their controlled aggression will be welcomed by Leinster coach Michael Cheika.

Other than that, sad to say, the Magners returns as nothing more than a filler in between Ireland's visits to France and England in the Six Nations.

The British and Irish Cup has already proven its worth by giving much-needed game time to a host of players in and around the first-team squad, and a number of highly rated Academy rookies learning their profession. Certainly, wing David Kearney impressed with his fancy footwork for a brace of tries and centre Eoin O'Malley showed why the coaching staff have been patient with him. His ability to break and find support runners was a positive outcome of the stylish away win at Exeter Chiefs (22-10) last Saturday.

The appearance of Ireland U20 Andrew Conway in the initial squad for the first time is a glimpse at the future of Leinster rugby. The Blackrock speedster has the footwork of Shane Williams and the speed of Denis Hickie. Whether he can bring his special talent up to speed in the professional arena is, hopefully, just a matter of time, with his size and improving his catching and kicking the main points of concern.

Coach Michael Cheika has grown used to walking the tightrope between respecting the Magners League and preparing for the Heineken Cup.

For those who need reminding, Leinster are tied in fourth position with Munster, trailing leaders Glasgow Warriors by five points with, at least, a game to spare over the three clubs ahead of them.

VERDICT: Leinster


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