Sexton returns as Guinness Six Nations nears

Johnny Sexton celebrates after Caelan Doris scores a try 13/11/2021
Ireland captain Johnny Sexton is set for his start in two months, as players across Europe count down to the 2022 Guinness Six Nations.

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton is set for his start in two months, as players across Europe count down to the 2022 Guinness Six Nations.

Sexton will trot out for Leinster away to Bath in the Heineken Champions Cup for his first start since Ireland beat New Zealand in the Autumn Nations Series in November.

The 36-year-old came off the bench against Montpellier last weekend and he gets one more run out before Ireland’s 36-man squad meet for training camp next week.

Ireland regulars Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan miss out after picking up injuries last weekend but Jordan Larmour has recovered from a dead leg to take his place in the back three.

Furlong is expected to be fit for the Championship in two weeks, while in Cork his fellow international prop Dave Kilcoyne is set to celebrate his 200th Munster appearance this weekend.

Munster face Wasps and the hosts will be captained by Peter O’Mahony, who is approaching the tenth anniversary of his Ireland debut, which came against Italy in the 2012 Championship.

Farrell out but Underhill returns

The opening day of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations sees old rivals Scotland and England meet at BT Murrayfield but it is unlikely to feature Owen Farrell.

The England captain was ruled out of Saracens’ Challenge Cup clash with London Irish after suffering an injury in training.

Maro Itoje is back for Saracens this weekend, while Marcus Smith, who started at No.10 during the Autumn Nations Series, is on the bench for Harlequins v Castres on Friday night.

There is some good news on the injury front for head coach Eddie Jones, with Bath flanker Sam Underhill back for the first time in a month against Leinster and he will hope to prove his fitness and force his way into Eddie Jones’ squad after not making the initial cut.

New England call-up Orlando Bailey starts for Bath, as well as prop Will Stuart and second row Charlie Ewels

Meanwhile, Sale Sharks scrum-half Raffi Quirke has overcome a recent thigh injury and will start against Ospreys in the Champions Cup.

Championship match-ups

Wherever you look this weekend, there are Guinness Six Nations players going up against one another.

In Paris, Scotland fly-half Finn Russell will pit his wits against England’s George Furbank when Racing 92 host Northampton Saints, while France’s Gaël Fickou and Scotland’s Rory Hutchinson line up across from one another in the same fixture.

There’s an exciting battle of the props on Saturday night, as Wales’ Wyn Jones and England’s Kyle Sinckler literally go head-to-head when Scarlets tackle Bristol Bears.

While, back at the Rec, Leinster’s Robbie Henshaw returns to the centres alongside Garry Ringrose and will go up against Scotland’s Cam Redpath, who is back in the international fold after an injury hit 12 months.

His Test captain Stuart Hogg is part of an explosive Exeter Chiefs back line to face Montpellier on Sunday, with England centre Henry Slade and winger Jack Nowell alongside him against a Montpellier side featuring France duo Mohamed Haouas and Paul Willemse in the pack.

Their south-west neighbours Gloucester Rugby have also opted for an international-heavy squad for their Challenge Cup tie against Perpignan, with Scotland centre Chris Harris and Wales winger Louis Rees-Zammit in line to start.