Leo Cullen upbeat over Johnny Sexton's fitness

Jonathan Sexton. Photo: Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Leo Cullen remains upbeat on Johnny Sexton's prospects of being fit for Leinster's Champions Cup semi-final against Toulouse on Easter Sunday.

The World Player of the Year has not played since Ireland's Six Nations defeat to Wales on March 16 and sat out last week's quarter-final win over Ulster with a leg injury as Ross Byrne came in and kicked the champions to a narrow victory.

Cullen, who yesterday made 13 changes to his team for this evening's clash with Benetton at the RDS, with Scott Fardy and Luke McGrath keeping their places, hopes to have Robbie Henshaw and Devin Toner back for next week's PRO14 meeting with Glasgow Warriors.

Neither player has played since the opening Six Nations defeat to England.

Henshaw has been dealing with a complex dead leg, while Toner underwent an ankle operation.

Cullen is "reasonably confident' that Sexton can prove his fitness for the rematch with their fellow four-time champions who they met twice in the pool stages, while he is looking forward to getting Henshaw and Toner back on the field.

"Johnny's coming on well. It wasn't a significant injury that he had, so he's rehabbing this week and will return to training hopefully next week," Cullen said.

"Robbie and Dev have got through the week's training. If they come through next week, there is a strong possibility they'll feature next weekend.

"Getting guys back from medium-term injuries at this stage of the season is always very positive."

Cullen's decision to rest so many starters has opened the door for fringe players to come in and impress ahead of the big games to come, according to Fardy.

"Every single guy on the team sheet this week has got an opportunity to put himself in position to play in those big games come the end of the year," he said.

"Not only that but we're playing in the RDS, which is something we all love doing, and we're looking forward to playing in front of our home fans.

"We're just focused on ourselves, focused on getting our roles right. We've obviously looked at (last year's loss to Benetton) and have seen where things didn't go as well for us, but we know that if we do our roles really well and stay on task then we'll get the job done."