Sexton eager to prove his fitness as All Blacks loom into view
Ireland out-half Jonathan Sexton gets the first chance to prove his fitness after summer shoulder injury when he faces off against prospective Lions rival Dan Biggar.
Tonight's Guinness Pro12 clash between Leinster and Ospreys at the RDS will witness Sexton's return to action after missing Ireland's summer tour to South Africa following his shoulder injury sustained in May's Grand Final defeat to Connacht.
Although England's Grand Slam and Champions Cup winner Owen Farrell is viewed as the leading contender to start for Warren Gatland's side against New Zealand next summer, Sexton and Biggar will be vying to make an early impression.
And Sexton, capped 61 times for his country, will also be eager to demonstrate his readiness ahead of two more Tests against the All Blacks this autumn in a green jersey.
"He's trained well over the last number of weeks," said Leinster head coach Leo Cullen.
"He's been fully involved in training. Some injured players come back on the field and they're almost straight into it cold. Whereas, with a shoulder, he has managed himself non-contact for a couple of weeks and he has trained well.
"I'm looking forward to seeing him in action tomorrow."
Club captain Isa Nacewa is also eagerly anticipating the return of the talisman, who shook up the province last season with a scathing attack on the club's declining standards.
"Johnny's experience speaks for itself," said Nacewa. "He's a world-class ten. He loves the pressure and he loves the responsibility of being out there leading."
The last of the available Irish internationals held back by the national management will return this weekend.
Jared Payne starts for Ulster in Glasgow this evening, where he will be joined from the bench by captain Rory Best.