Johnny Sexton 'unlikely' to play before Six Nations as James Ryan faces fitness race to face Lyon
Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster has revealed that Johnny Sexton is highly unlikely to play before the start of the Six Nations.
There had been a slight hope that Sexton could return from a knee injury in next week's final Champions Cup pool clash against Benetton, but it appears that will not be the case.
The out-half, who is the front-runner to take over as Ireland captain, damaged ligaments in his knee against Northampton last month and has since consulted a specialist in the UK over the injury.
Although Sexton's rehab programme is going well as he increases his training load this week, he is set to miss Leinster's next two games, which means that he will be coming into the Six Nations short on game-time.
The 34-year is no stranger to hitting the ground running after spells out and it seems that he will have to do so again, if he can prove his fitness in time for Ireland's opener against Scotland on February 1.
"He's making great progress but it's not an injury that you suddenly go from being not injured to fit again in two or three weeks," Lancaster said, at Leinster's UCD base today.
"It takes time to strengthen the ligament, to start running again and everything that goes into being back fit again and playing a robust game like rugby.
"So it's going to take some time but he has made some good progress but he is not going to be available to us this week."
Asked if Sexton could return against Treviso next week, Lancaster responded:
"Well, that's unlikely but that's not to say that he is a long way away from playing either.
"But we have got a Sunday game and a game again next Saturday so he would have to be on the training field playing full contact and training on Monday, Tuesday next week and that's not going to happen."
Meanwhile, Leinster will give James Ryan every chance to prove his fitness ahead of the clash with Lyon.
The Ireland lock suffered a calf injury in last weekend's thumping win over Connacht and was replaced in the first half.
Ryan will be monitored throughout the week before a final decision on his fitness is made.
"We'll see, we'll see," Lancaster said of Ryan's chances of featuring this weekend.
"It's certainly not a long-term injury by any stretch of the imagination. But he won't be training today and we'll obviously have to make a call by Wednesday really.
"It's a Sunday game, which gives us a longer lead-in time. We're hopeful but it's not for certain.
"We wouldn't take the risk. We've got Scott Fardy and Devin Toner, Ross Molony and Ryan Baird. We've got some good opportunities there if James isn't available."