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Saturday 16 December 2017

A Toner that won't fade

Having been involved in some of Leinster's most historic days, he observes that the 'electric' atmosphere in the Aviva Stadium was the 16th man once more.

Clearly still bowled over, he believes that the sea of blue was the catalyst for Leinster's success.

Deafening

"I don't think I saw one red jersey out there. The sea of blue was brilliant and the noise was just deafening. I could hardly hear myself call the lineouts it was that loud!

"But the most pleasing aspect of the night was the forward performance from one to eight which gave us the platform to play off. We hadn't been providing that platform in recent weeks so to get a win under the belt ahead of two massive games was pleasing.

"Come Monday morning though our focus was already on Racing and they're a side who we know we'll have to move up another gear to get the result we're after."

The manner in which Toner snaffled lineout ball both for and against his own throw last weekend has helped provide Leinster with a boost in terms of second row selection in light of the absence of soon-to-be-returning influential leader Leo Cullen.

With Ed O'Donoghue falling to injury from the previous week's excursions in Edinburgh, the time was set for Toner to deliver. And a performance of clinical execution, physicality and power propelled Leinster's set-piece, ably supported by Scotland's Nathan Hines.

Ever the deflector of personal acclaim, Toner mildly admits his satisfaction with his own performance before the almost shy guard reappears. Deflect and share, rather than gloat and self-inflate.

"I'm fairly happy with my form," he says with a smile, "Because I wasn't happy with my form the previous week. I was blowing a bit hard because it was my first game back, but things are shaping up quite well after the injury.

"It always takes a few weeks to get your match fitness up to a high level, so we're expecting another test on Saturday of our endurance and our systems. Racing have quality in their pack with the likes of Lionel Nallet, Sebastien Chabal and (Francois) van der Merwe to name but three and they're a side that will ask questions of us."

Education

It's an inherent attitude earned at home and harnessed through Castleknock College, Lansdowne and the Leinster Academy, where he, along with a batch which included -- from last week -- man of the match Sean O'Brien, Fergus McFadden and Jonathan Sexton, continued their education.

"It's always good to see home-grown players coming through," he says. "I really enjoyed my time in the Academy and under Colly (McEntee) we were prepared professionally for the step up to first team rugby.

"We have been lucky at Leinster in recent years to have also had a number of top class overseas players who have played a massive role in improving the depth and quality of our squad and we're all learning off one another, which is a great environment to be a part of.

"There was a bunch of us of a similar age who came through together and we remain a close-knit group, so it was nice to share in an occasion like that."

What can Leinster expect this weekend from the high-flying Parisians?

"Metro are doing very well and they're a physical side, as all French sides are. They have invested in some top quality players and they have real strength in depth, so you have to give them credit for how they've started in their domestic league so far because there are a lot of good sides there.

"You can really feel the intensity for Heineken Cup weeks and every side in Europe wants to lay an early marker in round one.

"The onus for us is on playing as a team. We know that we have made a small step, but we are facing into two massive challenges and there will be tests of our resources coming up that we have to be ready for."

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