Sunday 25 August 2019

Toner wary of Ulster's threat as Blues target home semi-final spot

Devin Toner, seen here in action against Munster, is wary of the threat Ulster will pose (SPORTSFILE)
Devin Toner, seen here in action against Munster, is wary of the threat Ulster will pose (SPORTSFILE)
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

As seasons go, Leinster's international players won't experience too many longer ones than the one they are currently in.

For the majority, assembling at Carton House ahead of the World Cup last autumn may seem like a lifetime ago but by the time Ireland's Summer tour of South Africa ends, this will have been a gruelling campaign.

With two games left to play in the regular season, Leinster know that a semi-final awaits and they will be hoping that a final in Edinburgh will soon follow.

Devin Toner is one of those players who has played a huge amount of rugby this season which is as much down to his importance to both Leinster and Ireland as it is his durability.

Toner may not have watched the Champions Cup semi-finals last weekend as he instead made the most of a rare weekend off but not being involved in the latter stages of Europe isn't something that he or his more experienced team-mates have become accustomed to in recent years.

"It is kind of weird not being involved, but again it kind of gives us a chance to rejuvenate and have a good training week," the second-row maintained.

"We got a bit of a hit-out last week so it was good to rejuvenate really, but it is hard not being involved.

"It is a pretty long season, but I think at this stage, as you said we've had a couple of weekends off and we haven't really had the chance to rejuvenate, so I think we're kind of really getting into it now.

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"I think our S&C lads are have been putting in a focus on not tapering off and going hard and going after it. So I think everyone is really looking forward to the end of the season (games) now.

"It's not going to be hard (to get motivated). We know it's an absolutely massive game this weekend, and then whatever happens after that we'll kind of play it by ear. Just in regards to this week, no, it's not going to be hard to get up for it to be honest."

Tomorrow's clash in Belfast is a must-win game if Ulster are to have any hope of sealing a home semi-final and Toner knows how dangerous they can be as Leinster sealed a narrow 8-3 victory back in November.

"They're getting back into it now. Obviously they had a great result against Zebre and they're really getting back into it," Toner said.


"They've only lost twice in Ravenhill this year, by very, narrow margins. It's going to be really tough."

An injury to Iain Henderson denied Toner the opportunity to build on the pair's second-row partnership in the Six Nations but he expects the Ulster man to finish the season strongly ahead of the tour to South Africa.

"He is an unbelievable athlete, unbelievably strong. He doesn't even try in the gym and he's racking up PBs (personal bests)," he enthused.

"His rise has been pretty good in the last couple of years. We missed him in the Six Nations. He is a character as well. I have a lot of time for him. He's a great man. He's been doing pretty well at six as well.

"(Peter) Browne's been doing great this season in the second-row. You've got Franco (van der Merwe) calling the shots. You've got a pretty solid pack there."

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