Lions Tour: Leinster promise to look after Sexton
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Leinster have promised they will monitor Jonathan Sexton carefully in the closing stages of the European season ahead of the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand.
Lions coach Warren Gatland is due to name his squad for the three-Test series against the world champion All Blacks on April 19.
Ireland flyhalf Sexton, a star of the Lions' victorious tour of Australia four years ago, has been tipped to be the combined side's first-choice No.10 in New Zealand - provided he stays fit.
The 31-year-old will be back on Leinster duty this weekend when the Irish province face English side Wasps in a European Champions Cup quarterfinal at Dublin's Lansdowne Road on Saturday - his first match since he helped Ireland deny England a Six Nations Grand Slam at the same ground earlier this month.
Sexton missed the start of the Six Nations with a calf problem and such is his importance to any side he plays for that, as happened against England, he usually gets subjected to some heavy duty tackling and more than his fair share of illegal hits.
But former England coach Stuart Lancaster, now a member of Leinster's backroom staff, expects Sexton to be firing on all cylinders against Wasps.
"Johnny is available," Lancaster said. "He's not had a great run of games this season, but when he has played he's been excellent, particularly in Europe.
"He's just been a bit unlucky with minor injuries - they've been nothing major and hopefully he'll get a decent run now until the end of the season.
"He'll be managed over the next few weeks. Johnny won't play every match but he's certainly fit and available for this one."
Lancaster added: "I wouldn't go as far as to say he'll be first choice for the Lions because there's a long way to go.
"He was frustrated to miss the first two Six Nations games because of the calf injury.
"To play as well as he did in the games that he did play, he has to be in contention for the Lions squad, not just because of his talent but because of his experience as well."
Meanwhile, Wasps coach Dai Young said he was confident his flyhalf, Danny Cipriani, would not get drawn into a head-to-head battle with Sexton in a bid to revive his own hopes of Lions selection.
Cipriani has not had a look in with England since Australian coach Eddie Jones took charge after the 2015 World Cup.
But there have been examples of players going on Lions tours while deemed surplus to requirements by their respective countries.
However, Young said: "The last thing from our point of view that we're going to turn this into is a Danny Cipriani versus Johnny Sexton competition.
"Every game is a chance for people to state their Lions case, but for us it's solely about making sure we play our game."