JONATHAN Sexton is in danger of missing out on the crunch clash with Toulouse this Saturday after senior coach Stuart Lancaster revealed he only had a “50-50” chance of playing due to a lower leg injury.
Sexton picked up the knock during the festive inter-provincial defeat to Munster and although there are no threats to his long-term fitness, Leinster will not risk him this week if he is not 100 per cent, with Ross Byrne on stand-by.
“Johnny has had the problem for a few days now and he hasn’t trained since picking it up in the Munster game but I would have no problem with playing Ross Byrne.
“Ross has showed himself capable in Europe last season and is probably the most improved player in our squad in the past 12 months.”
Devin Toner is also rated as a doubt for the Toulouse clash but there was better news for Leinster and Ireland fans with the prospect of centre Robbie Henshaw making a spectacular return from injury ahead of schedule.
Henshaw, who injured a hamstring during the build-up to the November international against Argentina, was not expected to return until deep into the Six Nations tournament, although he had hinted last month that he might be able to feature on the opening weekend against England.
Leinster will not risk him this week despite his expected return to the training paddock tomorrow and he will need to hit designated physical markers as laid down by both provincial and national staff.
“If he’s fit and 100% ready to go, there’s no worry about him being up to speed,” said Lancaster. “He will need to come through all the markers before we are certain of his involvement, and whether that will be from the bench or in the starting fifteen.
“It’s huge for Ireland a well. This will not just be a Leinster decision, it’s an Ireland decision and he has to hit markers in conjunction with both, it would be foolish to do otherwise.
“We still have to see how he is in 24 hours. I’d say it’s 50-50 at the moment. We would like to consider him but we also don’t want to be foolish and rush it.”