Leinster escaped lightly on the World Cup injury front given the number of representatives they contributed to Joe Schmidt’s squad, but there was no word yesterday on the severity of the groin injury which kept Jonathan Sexton out of the quarter-final defeat to Argentina.
The out-half suffered the injury during the final Pool D game against France a week earlier. Though replaced by clubmate Ian Madigan at the time, he was named for the clash with Argentina before being scrubbed from the teamsheet on the morning before the game.
The Ireland camp was circumspect on the nature and the extent of the issue at the time and Leinster assistant coach John Fogarty revealed little more aside from the fact that Sexton did some light running at UCD yesterday and that he is being assessed throughout the week.
Other than that, the province was able to welcome back a fit and relatively fresh World Cup cohort to team HQ after their week off, though it remains to be seen how many feature in Sunday’s Pro12 visit to Italy where they will play Benetton Treviso.
“It was a bruising game, the Argentina game,” said Fogarty of the fixture which has deprived Ulster of Tommy Bowe and Iain Henderson for the foreseeable future. “It was like our game against Glasgow (last weekend), but we are blessed. You look at Ulster and you would have to feel sorry for them with all the players they have out. We’re disappointed Ireland didn’t go further, but we’re delighted for them to come back in what appears good nick.”
Those players reported back yesterday to a squad that has won its three league home games and lost two on the road in their absence and one in which hooker Aaron Dundon (concussion) is the only real injury concern heading towards the weekend’s duties.
Munster coach Anthony Foley spoke on Monday about the need to balance the load wisely for players returning from the physical and mental exertions of the global tournament and Fogarty believes Leinster head coach Leo Cullen is well on top of that.
“What Leo has done that is very impressive is how he manages all the different departments. It is something I couldn’t do. He has managed the S&C side of it and he has managed the onfield stuff, the physio department.
“He is working very hard with all of those so that we don’t come with the thing where we have fatigue in players mentally or physically. He is very conscious of that and he is in control of it …
“We are working hard to make sure the players are physically and mentally ready for battle.”
The provinces have just two rounds of Pro12 fixtures to reintegrate their Irish contingents before Europe calls, but there is no doubting what the return to Leinster of a fit Jonathan Sexton after two years at Racing Metro could do for the side this season.
“He’s the 10,” said club and country team-mate Tadhg Furlong. “He’s the quarterback of rugby. All the play goes through him. With Johnny you have a firm understanding of where you stand and it’s well-documented if you’re not standing in the right place you get shouted at as well. He’s very verbal. He’s very easy to play outside. I suppose if you’re a prop, you have to make it pretty simple for us.”
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