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Gibbes backs rising Blue aces to make Six Nations step-up


Devin Toner in action for Leinster

Devin Toner in action for Leinster

Devin Toner in action for Leinster

LEINSTER are optimistic that Jonathan Sexton and Luke Fitzgerald will be fit to take on Montpellier at the RDS this weekend when a win will secure the champions a home Heineken Cup quarter-final.

Sexton rolled his ankle in the 23-16 win over Glasgow last Sunday, but forwards coach Jono Gibbes said the medics were positive about his availability, as they were on Luke Fitzgerald, who missed the trip to Firhill with a combination of glute/neck strain.

Furthermore, hooker Richardt Strauss, flanker Kevin McLaughlin and second-row Steven Sykes are all also expected to be available.

While Gibbes said the squad focus is centred on the Montpellier challenge, he backed younger players -- such as second-row Devin Toner and back-row Rhys Ruddock -- to step up to the mark if they earn inclusion in Ireland's Six Nations squad today.

"Have they done enough? It's up to Declan," said Gibbes. "Personally, I think that they are progressing really well and are ready to wear a green shirt if they get the opportunity.

"I know we've been really happy with the work they have put in and the improvements they are trying to bring. We can see that day-to-day."

Flanker Shane Jennings is another player hoping to be named today, having been part of the World Cup squad in New Zealand and believes that the Six Nations backdrop provides an extra incentive against Montpellier.

"If people aren't picked, they always want to prove someone wrong, so that will motivate them for the weekend.

"If they are, they obviously want to end on a high before they go into the Six Nations camp," said Jennings, who added that having three provinces going well in Europe can only be good for the national side.

"It's brilliant. If three teams are going to be in it, that's good for Irish rugby. There's always going to be rivalry there because when you go into camp, you always want to be top dog. Same with the Munster lads, same with the Ulster lads.

"I think it's great. Competition is going to bring everyone on. Ulster played a great game on Friday night, Munster are as strong as ever. It's going to be very exciting times in the coming weeks."

Gibbes is relishing the opportunity of Leinster playing in front of a full-house at the RDS, describing the supporters as "awesome" since he arrived from New Zealand.

"It's one of the things that I really like about rugby in the north -- they are supportive, they are into their team, they support their team no matter who plays and take a real ownership of it. It's really awesome, you don't really get that down in the southern hemisphere. It's cultural."

Irish Independent