herald

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Leinster in need of more Toner

Lock keen to carry extra load in Cullen's absence

Devin Toner has grown in more ways than one.

There is the weight - up to 127 kilos (20 stones) from 124, there is the strength that comes with it, and, then, there is the responsibility that accompanies the graduation to the officer class of senior international.

Now that Leo Cullen has taken his chair in the forwards coach's office vacated by Jono Gibbes, Toner is thrust into the role of leader and lineout brains of the operation.

"With Leo stepping down, there is a gap there," he said, in a typically under-stated manner.

"There is a lot more responsibility on my shoulders this year to step up."

And to get down into those hard-to-reach places whenever necessary: "I've always said it's always been a weakness of mine, getting down low into places, getting down low into rucks.

Nuisance

"I want to focus on my ball-carrying and making a nuisance of myself around the ruck. I have to learn how to us my size and my weight."

Last Saturday, the giant-sized second row had to sit and suffer through Leinster's opening-round defeat at Glasgow Warriors for the sixth time in the last seven years.

Excuses are just a way of not owning what is yours. The 28 missed tackles spoke to Leinster's mental softness in Scotstoun.

"I think Seánie (O'Brien) put it well after the game. We can't rely on that and say that. We're professionals at this stage. It's not good enough to say it was rustiness."

Leinster can't be so lifeless when the Scarlets front five come to old Dublin town for the Blues' first homer of the season at The RDS on Saturday.

Are they fragile there? "If you look at the front five now, I don't think you can say that really," Toner voiced.

Experience

"They've got Ken Owens in there, who has huge experience and is their captain now.

"You've got Jake Ball, who got capped last year by Wales. He's a solid player, a big brute of a man.

"They've got a good couple of ball-carriers. (Rory) Pitman coming in is a class eight off the back. He's a pretty good ball-carrier. They've got good depth now."

And so it goes. It is already backlash time for Leinster.

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