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Saturday 18 November 2017

Sexton back to set up O’Gara showdown

JONATHAN SEXTON has been named in the the Leinster team for tomorrow’s Magners League semi-final showdown with Munster at the RDS.

Shane Jennings leads the team for the fifth time this season in the absence of the injured Leo Cullen.

Out-half Sexton has not played since fracturing his jaw in the Heineken Cup quarter-final win over Clermont Auvergne on April 9, but it is understood that he had a plate removed this week and had been cleared to take part tomorrow night.

Australian Shaun Berne has been playing well in Sexton’s absence but coach Michael Cheika has opted to start the Ireland international, which sets up a fascinating tussle with Munster’s Ronan O’Gara ahead of next week’s squad announcement for next month’s tour Down Under.

O’Gara, who steered Munster into the semi-finals with four penalties against the Cardiff Blues – enough to earn the necessary losing bonus point – looks certain to start at 10 for the champions, but the news on centre Keith Earls is less encouraging for Tony McGahan’s men.

The Limerick youngster continues to struggle with the groin injury that has plagued him since the Six Nations, with Lifeimi Mafi available to resume his midfield partnership alongside Jean de Villiers. Doug Howlett could also return on the right wing with Denis Hurley and Paul Warwick completing Munster’s back three.

Meanwhile, the Ospreys have been fined €116,000 and deducted four points for next season’s Magners League for failing to fulfil their away fixture against Ulster on March 19.

The Welsh outfit, who face Glasgow in their play-off semi-final at the Liberty Stadium tonight, claimed they did not have sufficient front-row cover to play the tie, but a Celtic Disciplinary Panel found this explanation was unsatisfactory at a meeting in Glasgow yesterday. The Ospreys have the right to appeal the decision.

LEINSTER (v Munster): Rob Kearney, Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Isa Nacewa, Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, John Fogarty, Stan Wright, Nathan Hines, Malcolm O’Kelly, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings (C) Jamie Heaslip. (Replacements tba)

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