Thursday 12 December 2019

Blues delay call on Sexton and Cullen

Leinster forwards coach Jono Gibbes in relaxed mood during a squad press conference yesterday at Riverview, Clonskeagh. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Leinster forwards coach Jono Gibbes in relaxed mood during a squad press conference yesterday at Riverview, Clonskeagh. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

LEINSTER have delayed naming their team to face Racing Metro until this morning to allow Leo Cullen and Jonny Sexton as long as possible to prove their fitness.

Forwards coach Jono Gibbes yesterday said he expects out-half Sexton to be ready after his impressive cameo against Munster last weekend, but captain Cullen has yet to play this season and is more of a doubt.

The province must submit their team by midday today as part of ERC rules and the former All Black wants his players to cast their memories back a year to their Heineken Cup opening-day home defeat to London Irish.

Leinster have amended their preparation this week to give the players more time to recover from the Aviva Stadium clash, which Gibbes says will stand his team in good stead.

"We are just being reasonably cautious with him (Sexton) and seeing how he reacts to the workload he's had this week," he explained. "I'd be reasonably confident that he's going to make the starting line.

"Leo is coming back from a long-term injury and we just wanted to see how he was sitting. We want to give those guys as much time as possible -- they are pretty influential members (of the team).

"I wouldn't like to second-guess our preparation last year because I felt at the time that our preparation leading into Irish was the best that we did.

"This week we took a different approach. We didn't force the recovery for Tuesday, which would normally be our main work day. The boys really emptied the tank against Munster last Saturday and it has just taken a few extra days to get it back up again.

"Last year against Irish we came in after the Munster game on Monday and we used Tuesday as our big work day and when we got to Saturday we were a little flat. We won't know whether we got it right until Saturday but from what I see, that is the difference.

"The players are mentally very self-driven. You have a lot of experience through the spine of the team and a lot of those guys experienced the disappointment of that home defeat and the three months of anxiety. Mentally they are very clued in to not allowing ourselves to fall into a similar trap. The signs are positive."

Beating Munster has given the Leinster squad a massive fillip ahead of their assault on Europe and Gibbes believes they face a similar task up front tomorrow.

"I think Munster was a big step forward for us as a mindset and we are going to need that mindset again for another step up against these guys this week," he said.

"You saw against Munster it was eight guys not doing a hell of a lot of talking, but getting their bodies down and shoulders forward.


Again, this week, that's kind of what we need. I don't think we can have too much time talking about what we need to do out there, we just need to get out and get it done.

"I think one of the pleasing aspects last week was that Munster clearly were going to kick for territory and attack our lineout. I think they kicked for touch 17 times so that was a clear message that they thought they were going to attack one of our platforms.

"We managed to deal with that reasonably effectively, and I guess that was a dress rehearsal for this week because I expect the same. The next thing probably will be the scrum area. But I think Munster always come down and ask questions of us up front and I think Metro will ask similar questions as well."

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