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Sexton backs young guns to step up and shine


Braam Steyn of Italy. Photo by Dave Winter/Icon Sport via Getty Images

Braam Steyn of Italy. Photo by Dave Winter/Icon Sport via Getty Images

Braam Steyn of Italy. Photo by Dave Winter/Icon Sport via Getty Images

Leinster welcomed Sean O'Brien back this week as the now-departed flanker addressed the squad ahead of a new Champions Cup campaign.

With another influx of young players, including Ronan Kelleher and Caelan Doris who both make their first European starts against Benetton this afternoon, Leinster were keen for the less experienced guys to understand what exactly it means to play for the club in the biggest tournament.

"There is a lot of experience in the team, but there are a lot of young guys and we need to focus on ourselves and the performance," Johnny Sexton, who returns to captain the team, explained.

"We don't have time in a week like this to get around those young lads and just for them to realise what it is like to play for Leinster in Europe and what it means to the guys that play with us.

"Getting those big days out, what it means to your family and all those close to you, they will never forget it as well.

"It is just important that the young guys realise that and I think they know it as well anyway, they are born and bred in Leinster and they know what's expected."

Leinster know exactly what is expected of them today as they go in search of a bonus point win that they should definitely get.

With the majority of the internationals back in situ, Sexton backed Devin Toner to overcome his World Cup disappointment, pointing to some behind the scenes reasons why Joe Schmidt overlooked him.

"Look, there are lots of different reasons why he didn't get picked," Sexton said. "It is up to him to go into it, I am not going to, but he's a guy that is well liked in Ireland and Leinster. And he's a guy who has performed at the top level for a long time."

Leinster have stayed true to their word and backed the form players who have helped the club enjoy a stunning unbeaten start to the season.

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And for all the improvements that Benetton have made, Leinster's winning run will almost certainly continue at home against the Italians.

Verdict: Leinster

Leinster - J Larmour; D Kearney, G Ringrose, J Tomane, J Lowe; J Sexton (capt), L McGrath; C Healy, R Kelleher, A Porter; D Toner, J Ryan; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, C Doris. Reps: J Tracy, P Dooley, M Bent, S Fardy, M Deegan, J Gibson-Park, R Byrne, R O'Loughlin.

Benetton - J Hayward; A Esposito, N Brex, A Sgarbi (capt), L Sperandio; I Keatley, D Duvenage; N Quaglio, H Faiva, M Riccioni; I Herbst, D Budd; G Pettinelli, B Steyn, N Manu. Reps: E Makelara, F Zani, T Pasquali, M Fuser, M Lazzaroni, T Halafihi, T Tebaldi, T Allan.

REF - P Brousset (France)

Leinster v Benetton, live, today, BT Sport, 3.15

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