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Toner aims to stand tall for Charteris test

LEINSTER lock Devin Toner is now where the Dragons and Wales second-row Luke Charteris was not so long ago. It is true tall trees take more time to mature.

In many ways, Charteris, 29, is the benchmark for Toner, 25. He is similarly blessed with uncommon height: Toner stands 6'10"; Charteris 6'9".

Charteris was also written down as too tall, too languid, too ineffective at ground to make an impact at international level.

Even though he has won 34 caps for Wales, it was only really at the start of this season that coach Warren Gatland announced him as the principality's leading lock. Then, injury intervened for most of the season.

Charteris is on his way to Perpignan in the summer. This could be the last chance for Toner to pit himself against him for some time.

"Seeing how he has progressed for Wales at the World Cup has spurred me on a little bit. Coming up against a peer who is similar in size is always a big test," confided Toner.

"We've shown we can perform away from home. We want to finish the regular season on a high. I also want to put down a marker."

Toner will have to do that in an unwelcoming environment where the 'chip on the shoulder' mentality of the Dragons can be compared to that of Connacht in Ireland.

"It is real old-school. The away dressing room is very cramped. It is not the best place to play. It is very hostile. It is not the most glamorous place to play. But, it does test your character."

It will also test the pride of the players in pulling on a Leinster jersey because that is all that is at stake. Well, that and involvement in the PRO12 play-offs and the Heineken Cup final.

"Competition is massive in the squad. Everyone wants to put their hands up. We have progressed from last year. There is confidence in every player that is put out there," stressed Toner.

"You always want to play and you always want to win."

And so say all of them.


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