Monday 16 September 2019

Toner hails youngsters for role in winning run

Devin Tone. Photo: Sportsfile
Devin Tone. Photo: Sportsfile

Ryan Corry

While the attention of most rugby fans was turned away from provincial colours and toward Chicago and the Aviva Stadium for November, it wasn't a blanket ban on the club game.

The show must go on and so it did with action in the Guinness PRO14 seeing second, third or fourth-string players promoted to the front line.

Despite a clean sweep in the international series, including the impressive All Blacks scalp, Devin Toner realises that the biggest lesson learned during the month gone by was just how strong the Leinster team is.

"What we've learned from it is the strength in depth coming through.

"You see the young lads taking their chances and that's the advantage of these games in the autumn international window," says the 6ft 10in lock.

"I think Leo has a tough job for selection this week but, as I said, seeing the young lads stick their hand up for selection and seeing how well they played was absolutely brilliant for the squad."

During that break the fresh-faced Leinster team put up half-century totals on Ospreys and Dragons despite missing all of their international contingent.

Toner admits that as time has progressed, they've learned to manage that re-integration better.

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"We've learned how to adapt over the years of lads coming in and out of Irish camp and young lads coming in and out of the squad and back to the academy.

"We all know each other so well, we've played with each other for years so it's just a matter of getting back on the pitch really and train as best as you can."

The Champions Cup is where priorities lie this week and the unenviable task of going to Bath's Recreation Ground, a tough task for any opposition.

As has been the case for the eastern province for a number of years now, they'll fancy their chances no matter the opposition and focus on personal performance rather than getting caught up in what the opposition might do.

They'd also be wise to ignore Bath's poor form in domestic and European competition this year as the Rec on a European game day can be a fortress.

"I think the first thing in our mind is just getting a performance. We're not really looking at past results from us or from them. We're just preparing best we can," Toner adds.

"They've a few really good individuals. They've got one of the best back-rows. They've got (Francois) Louw, (Zach) Mercer, (Sam) Underhill, they're going to go really hard with the ball so one of the huge things for us is the breakdown area.

"Then you've got the wingers that can score from anywhere. (Semesa) Rokoduguni and (Joe) Cokanasiga are really quality players that have stepped up to the plate."

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