Sexton and Ryan both on course for Six Nations opener

Sexton and Ryan both on course for Six Nations opener
File photo of Jonathan Sexton and James Ryan

Jonathan Sexton and James Ryan both look good to go for Ireland's Six Nations opener against Scotland early next month.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen gave the positive progress report on two players who have been battling injury but also in the mix to assume the national team's armband after Rory Best's recent retirement.

Sexton injured a medial ligament away to Northampton last month and hasn't played since. He will now miss Sunday's Heineken Champions Cup visit of Lyon to Dublin and the following weekend's round six trip to Benetton too but the initial suspicion that he would be okay for February remains in place.

"Yeah, that's exactly what it looks like at this stage,” said Cullen at the team's UCD base. “He is back running now himself and is looking pretty good. Next week is probably a little bit too soon but he is making good progress."

Ryan suffered a calf injury in the home PRO14 game against Ulster last weekend and, while he too will sit out the Lyon fixture, Cullen is hopeful that the world-class second row will be available for the journey over to Italy six days later, if required.

The absence of Sexton and Ryan isn't expected to hamstring Leinster at the RDS this weekend. Lyon still stand a theoretical chance of making the last eight but they will need to mine maximum points out of their trip to Ireland to make that happen.

“Lyon, you are never too sure what the attitude of other teams will be,” said Cullen. “We're more concerned about ourselves. At the end of the day, we have qualified but there is something else we are going after. We are top seeds, but we want to be top seeds at the end of round six.

“For us, the mentality is to fight for every single point available in the games. That is the attitude we have had so far and why we are in position where we are. The group here is competitive, there is a lot at stake for players. It leads to (next) Saturday and to Six Nations. We know what is at stake there too.”

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