Sunday 20 October 2019

Johnny Sexton emerges as major doubt for Ulster clash but Joey Carbery set for Munster return


Jonathan Sexton. Photo: Sportsfile
Jonathan Sexton. Photo: Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor and Cian Tracey

Johnny Sexton has emerged as a major doubt for tomorrow's Champions Cup quarter-final between Leinster and Ulster as Leo Cullen prepares to leave Rob Kearney and James Lowe out of his team.

Ross Byrne is on standby to start at out-half for the European champions after sitting out last week's PRO14 defeat to Edinburgh if Sexton does not come through this morning's training session.

Kearney's absence is not thought to be related to an injury and would allow Jordan Larmour to start at full-back, with Adam Byrne and Dave Kearney on the wings.

Lowe looks set to be squeezed out by the dilemma over 'overseas' players with only two permitted under tournament rules.

Scott Fardy is to start alongside James Ryan in the second-row with Jamison Gibson-Park covering Luke McGrath at scrum-half.

Jack McGrath once again misses out on selection altogether as Ed Byrne provides cover for Cian Healy. The St Mary's man is widely expected to announce his move to Ulster in the coming weeks.

Fit-again Dan Leavy looks set to start on the bench, with Rhys Ruddock alongside Seán O'Brien and Jack Conan in the back-row, while Rory O'Loughlin gets the nod to partner Garry Ringrose in midfield.

Ulster's main concern is the fitness of lock Iain Henderson who picked up a knee injury when playing for Ireland against France.

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Meanwhile, Joey Carbery is set to return to the Munster starting XV to play Edinburgh when Johann van Graan names his team at midday.

The out-half has missed the last month of action with a hamstring injury that he picked up in Ireland training ahead of the Six Nations clash against France.

Munster's international contingent, including captain Peter O'Mahony, Conor Murray and Andrew Conway, are in line to return for the trip to Murrayfield.

Jack O'Donoghue is expected to be rewarded for his recent excellent form with a start at openside. The Waterford native has hit the ground running since his return from a serious knee injury.

O'Donoghue's opposite number Hamish Watson is warning Munster they're in for a tough day at the office.

"We know how good a pack we've got," the Scotland star said.

"It's going to be a very physical game. It will probably be won up front. It will definitely come down to forward dominance."

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