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Thursday 24 August 2017

Cullen looks to Carbery

Pro12: Leinster v Dragons, The RDS, Tonight, KO7.35 (Live TG4)

Leinster’s head coach Leo Cullen
Leinster’s head coach Leo Cullen

There would have been a few choice words plucked from an unofficial English dictionary to relay the anger of Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster towards Leinster's worst half of rugby this season last Friday night.

The Scarlets had just taken a scalpel to their defence for the opening 40 minutes to mount an almost unassailable lead in West Wales.

What followed was what should have preceded it.

The way Leinster clawed their way back to snatch a last minute fourth try for a losing bonus-point was a show of character, especially as Barry Daly was red-carded for an unacceptable challenge.

Just when they thought they could plan for Northampton Saints in The Champions Cup, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt suggested time out for Jonathan Sexton.

Coach Cullen was able to confirm a co-operative approach towards the best long-term interests of Sexton yesterday.

"He spent a bit of time out in Santry (Sports Clinic) this week," Cullen said, in relation to the Grade-1 hamstring strain.

"We'll see how he gets on out there and get a report early next week and we can make assessments based on that.

"From our point of view, we just want to make sure he's fully right the next time he goes and plays.

"He's had two hamstring tears or strains and we want to make sure he doesn't have another one."

The fact is Sexton cannot be made what Schmidt described as "more robust" by just managing the healing of the strain.

The out-half will need a period of strength and conditioning to have the best chance of putting this issue to bed.

In the meantime, Joey Carbery will take Leinster into tonight's PRO12 match against The Dragons, knowing his future is right now.

The 21-year-old is the only player from the province released for action out of those who put their bodies through the mill against Australia.

In Sexton's absence, Carbery may hold the key to Leinster's immediate future in The Champions Cup in his hands and at his feet.

It is a hell of a lot of responsibility to hang on the shoulders of a kid.

The experience of Isa Nacewa is just about all the Athy man can call on as Leinster look to put their PRO12 train back on track with a cluster of kids in a side that retains eight of the starters from last week.

Most of them will have been reminded of their duty of care towards the shirt they will pull on.

Leinster: Z Kirchner; A Byrne, R O'Loughlin, N Reid, I Nacewa (capt); J Carbery, L McGrath; P Dooley, J Tracy, M Bent, R Molony, H Triggs, R Ruddock, D Leavy, J Conan.

Dragons: C Meyer; P Howard, T Morgan, J Dixon, A Warren; A O'Brien, T Knoyle; P Price, E Dee, B Harris, N Crosswell, R Landman, L Evans (capt), N Cudd, H Keddie.

Verdict: Leinster

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