Friday 24 November 2017

Leinster looking to 'Plan B' as doubts grow over Sexton

David Kelly

David Kelly

Leinster will give Jonathan Sexton every chance to prove his fitness for Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final trip to Toulouse -- but the defending champions have vowed not to take any risks with the Irish out-half.

Many soccer players -- from Irish international Kevin Kilbane to former English star Paul Gascoigne -- have used masks to protect facial injuries.

Bayern Munich's Martin Demichelis also wore a face mask in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Lyon last week, but Leinster are unwilling to jeopardise Sexton's future health and are already sizing up 'Plan B'.

If the out-half fails to pass a fitness test during his first bout of physical contact tomorrow afternoon, he will be not be risked and Shaun Berne will deputise.

"I don't think that's the way we want to go," confirmed coach Michael Cheika when asked if the club would contemplate any contingency plan that would allow Sexton to start for the first time since fracturing his jaw late in the quarter-final win over Clermont.

"If he's going to be out there, he's got to do his thing. He'd like it that way. That's the test. The test is if he can do everything he's supposed to do without worrying; he'll play -- but (one must) understand that there could be ramifications if he takes another blow on it.

"Having had a fracture so recently, there's a chance if he takes another knock on it, he fractures it again. There's a good chance of that. We'll keep our eye on everything. Put it this way, we're not desperate."

There was better news for Leinster's other walking wounded, with Rob Kearney destined to return to the full-back slot. CJ van der Linde was also passed fit, although Fergus McFadden, a potentially vital bench back-up, remains a doubt.

Meanwhile, the IRFU has begun discussions with the GAA about the possibility of Croke Park staging the semi-final or final of the Magners League.

The semi-finals of the competition are scheduled for the weekend of the 14/15/16 of May and the final is set for Saturday May 29.

Irish Independent

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