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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Toner: We're underdogs

Lock hoping Leinster can spring European surprise

Devin Toner at yesterday’s Leinster press conference. Pic: Sportsfile
Devin Toner at yesterday’s Leinster press conference. Pic: Sportsfile

Lock Devin Toner is quite willing to embrace the tag of 'the underdog' as Leinster look to repair the damage to their European reputation from last season.

The three-time winners have fallen down the ranks of the contenders as the French and English clubs have muscled their way forward.

Even Paddy Powers bookmakers have Leinster rated at 22/1 to capture their fourth crown, in eight place behind the favourites Saracens, Toulon, Racing 92, Wasps, Clermont-Auvergne, Montpellier and Toulouse, just ahead of Exeter Chiefs, Northampton and Leicester.

This is the new reality of The Champions Cup, a competition in which the PRO12 League clubs are nothing much more than after-thoughts when it comes to identifying the two finalists for Edinburgh next May.

"In the past, we've always liked being the underdog," said Toner.

"If we can get by under the radar, get a couple of wins under our belt, get out of our group and have a home quarter, everyone would have a lot of confidence going into it.

"This is a set of circumstances and outcomes that is easier to trot out than to carry out.

Nonetheless, Leinster do have the look of a re-energised bunch with a finer appreciation of the best way to move forward.

"There is a hugely positive mood inside the camp," stated the man from Moynalvey. They would want to be on the heels of five wins out of six in the PRO12 League.

Quite simply, Leinster have to get out to a winning start against Castres Olympique at The RDS on Saturday or the chance of taking out Montpellier in France the next week will be greatly diminished.

Compromised

Last season, Leinster's European adventure was compromised by the Rugby World Cup and all that entailed from injuries to poor preparation.

The late introduction of Stuart Lancaster as a senior coach and the fact the players are still in the early days of a changed defensive system could be a problem that surfaces under the heavy pressure of Europe.

Toner disagreed: "I don't think can be an excuse at all.

"The philosophies that he has brought in are similar to what a lot of people have used before. He hasn't reinvented the wheel."

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