Johnny Sexton: Ireland fly-half set to be available for Six Nations despite cheekbone surgery

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen insists that Johnny Sexton’s injury is “reasonably minor” with the fly-half on course to return for Ireland’s Six Nations campaign.

The playmaker sustained a cheekbone injury following a clash of heads with Connacht’s Jarrad Butler on New Year’s Day.

Sexton had surgery to repair the issue, putting his Six Nations participation in doubt, but Cullen has provided a positive update on his stricken pivot.

No timeframe

Although a timeframe has not been put on his return, with Leinster’s Champions Cup clash against Gloucester too soon for the 37-year-old, Sexton is making good progress.

“Johnny Sexton won’t feature next week. You are only talking weeks, it’s all about how it settles down and how he heals,” Cullen told reporters.

“It’s reasonably minor, a few weeks, but next weekend will definitely be too soon. I thought Harry Byrne was good in his first start of the season and it was good for him to get through 55 minutes (against Ospreys).

“Ross Byrne then came on after he wasn’t involved the previous weekend because Jonny played. We have started three different No 10s in our last three games, and similarly at No 9.

“It’s all about people getting a genuine opportunity and ensuring everyone is ready for the big games when they are called upon. That’s what we’ve been focusing on in the last three weeks and it has been particularly pleasing to get two big wins away at Munster and here.”

Despite the absence of Sexton, Leinster maintained their winning run this season after defeating the Ospreys 24-19 on Saturday.

It made it 14 unbeaten for the Irish province in both the United Rugby Championship and Champions Cup in 2022/23.

Scrum struggles

They faltered in the scrum against the Welsh region, however, which is something they need to improve on heading to Kingsholm this weekend.

“We knew it would be like that and that we would get pushed. They are in a good vein of form and had a strong team,” Cullen added.

“Toby Booth teams are always going to be strong around the set-piece, particularly the scrum, so it was a really good hit out for us.

“Going to Kingsholm will be a totally different challenge, although there are some similarities. They are a Premiership team with a strong emphasis around set-piece, although Gloucester’s emphasis is more around line-out and maul – that’s their big weapon.”

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