European Champions Cup: Sexton and Henshaw miss Leinster's Toulouse game


Johnny Sexton (left) has a leg injury while Henshaw is not risked as he continues his recovery from a hamstring strain
Heineken European Champions Cup, Pool One: Leinster v Toulouse
Venue: RDS, Dublin Date: Saturday, 12 January Kick-off: 13:00 GMT
Coverage: Score updates and match report on the BBC Sport website

Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Rob Kearney are absentees for Leinster’s crucial European Champions Cup game against unbeaten Toulouse on Saturday.

World player of the year Sexton remains out because of a leg injury while centre Henshaw is not risked as he recovers from a hamstring injury.

Ross Byrne replaces Sexton at fly-half with Rory O’Loughlin partnering Garry Ringrose at centre.

Jordan Larmour takes over from Kearney at full-back for the holders.

Kearney returned after injury to start last weekend’s Pro14 win over Ulster but is not included in Leo Cullen’s 23-man squad for Saturday’s game.

Romain Ntamack, son of former France star Emile Ntamack, will start for Toulouse at centre

Toulouse on 12-match winning run

The Top 14 leaders, who like Leinster are four-time champions, include seven members of Jacques Brunel’s France Six Nations squad announced in midweek.

Maxime Medard, Romain Ntamack, Yoann Huget, Thomas Ramos and Antoine Dupont are named in the backs by Ugo Mola with skipper Julien Marchand starting at hooker and Dorian Aldegheri among the replacements.

Of those seven players, only scrum-half Dupont did not come through the club’s academy.

Since their 2009-10 Champions Cup triumph, Toulouse have largely been in the doldrums but this season has seen a stunning return to form by the club as they have put together a 12-match winning run.

Leinster coach Cullen says the French giants will represent an “unbelievable test” for his side.

“They have all the things that we have seen from the great Toulouse teams over the years. Very powerful forwards and very quick and skilful backs. It’s a pretty powerful combination,” added Cullen.

Leinster retain two starters from Ulster game

Wing Adam Byrne and hooker Sean Cronin are the only starters from last weekend retained in the Leinster line-up.

With Jack McGrath and Devin Toner unavailable because of injury, Cian Healy and Scott Fardy are named in Leinster’s pack.

Sexton’s unavailability means Rhys Ruddock skippers the side as he is included in the back row alongside Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan.

The defending European Champions are two points behind Toulouse in Pool A after the French outfit edged a 28-27 win when the teams met in October at Stade Ernest Wallon.

History favours victory for Leinster, however, with neither side having racked up two consecutive wins over the other in previous European action, where the stats are currently 5-4 in favour of Toulouse.

Leinster also have a very good home record against Top 14 teams, having won 22 of 24 games against French opposition.

English clubs Bath and Wasps are both out of contention for qualification after both lost three of their opening four games.

Leinster: Larmour; Byrne, Ringrose, O’Loughlin, D Kearney; Byrne, McGrath; Healy, Cronin, Furlong; Fardy, Ryan; Ruddock (capt), van der Flier, Conan.

Replacements: Tracy, E Byrne, Porter, Molony, Deegan, Gibson-Park, Reid, C O’Brien.

Toulouse: Medard; Kolbe, Guitoune, Ntamack, Huget; Ramos, Dupont; Castets, Marchand (capt), Faumuina; Arnold, Tekori; Cros, Elstadt, Kaino.

Replacements: Mauvaka, Baille, Aldegheri, Faasalele, Madaule, Placines, Bezy, Holmes.

Referee: L Pearce (RFU)

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