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Bad Break


Leinster coach Michael Cheika has resigned himself to losing out-half Jonathan Sexton for their Heineken Cup semi-final trip to Toulouse but declared his faith in stand-in Shaun Berne.

And the Leinster coach has claimed that the French side may be happier playing Leinster rather than Munster because they think Leinster are "more tender".

Cheika confirmed that Sexton is unlikely to return for "three to four weeks", leaving the No 10 hoping for a miracle recovery from his fractured jaw as the semi-final date is only 18 days away.

"Jonny had a little operation," said Cheika last night. "We'll just see how he pans out. I would say, looking into the extent of the injury first hand, that it is probably going to be a few weeks.

"I would say it is fairly touch and go as to whether he plays in the semi or not. It's just a little crack in his jaw. He is pretty good really but it is a pretty obvious injury and he can't just go out there and say 'I'll be alright strap it up and away you go'."

Rob Kearney (ankle ligaments) and Brian O'Driscoll (knee) will also miss this week's RDS Magners League tie with Ospreys. Gordon D'Arcy and Shane Horgan didn't train but should play, but Cheika confirmed Sean O'Brien is facing a race against time to be for the Toulouse clash.

"Rob is not as bad as we first thought," said Cheika. "When you get carried off on a stretcher it isn't ideal but, again, he will be touch and go in that environment and he is definitely out of this week's match as is Brian.

"We are probably a little bit more hopeful on Brian now, of getting himself right in the next couple of weeks. We were hopeful on Sean but now we are thinking it is less of a chance that he would be back for the Glasgow match a week before the semi.

"And I wouldn't bring him back into a game straight away so we will have to wait another three or four weeks for that, I would think."

Cheika also claimed that Toulouse may have got their preferred semi-final pairing. "Maybe they think we are still a little bit tender," he said.

"That might be the impression of Leinster in France and, also, everyone in France seems to think that we were a bit lucky to win (against Clermont) the other day and don't see the work that went into the match either."

Munster duo Doug Howlett (hamstring) and Ian Dowling (knee) will receive the results of scans today to determine the full extent of the injuries they picked up against Northampton Saints on Saturday.

Paul O'Connell, who missed the quarter-final win, and Keith Earls are still receiving intensive treatment on their respective groin strains.

Irish Independent