Project Devin Toner built on high standards
Leinster secondrow sets sights on nailing provincial position and winning Irish caps
Leinster’s Devin Toner tackles Ospreys’ Dan Biggar during their Heineken Cup victory at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. “We knew we were crap against Munster. We didn’t front up. We knew we had to go into that game all guns blazing,” he says. Photograph: PA .
Moments after Jonathan Sexton took leave of the Leinster shed for the last time, he told waiting journalists not to worry about the ethos of the group he was leaving.
“The good thing about Leinster over the last few years is we have replaced everyone that’s left. Rocky Elsom left, Kevin McLaughlin and Seán O’Brien came in. Brad Thorn left, Devin Toner has filled his boots.”
Thorn is probably the modern game’s most devastating lock around the pitch. Certainly the most durable.
Leinster, in fairness, have yet to adequately replace Nathan Hines with a similarly corrosive foreigner enforcer, while Leo Cullen has not featured this term but the locking department cannot be seen as problematic.
“You can obviously see Dev has learnt a lot from Leo and it is coming through now,” said Les Kiss after last summer’s North American tour. “This was a great opportunity to expose him to this level and ask him to take charge. And he did. He did a fantastic job. He has certainly put his hand up and it will be an interesting conversation in November.”
That conversation of who will partner Paul O’Connell is taking place right now between Kiss, Joe Schmidt and John Plumtree.
Mike McCarthy and Donnacha Ryan will not give way without at least landing a few belts in training. Dan Tuohy and Iain Henderson cannot be ignored either.
“I know, I know, tell me about it,” said Toner last Wednesday. “The squad is going to be announced after this weekend . . . it is in the back of your head. I’d love to be involved, I’d love to get a couple of more caps. I think it stands to me that I can call lineouts.”
Those paying close attention will have shelved preconceptions formed during the 27 year old’s formative time as a professional. Others will not but gone are the new-born foal wanderings, replaced by a steelier edge.
He nimbly slides into a corner chair of the Library Bar in the Central hotel for a chat on a dank afternoon. Otherwise known as “chore day”.
That means immersing himself in his new Dublin 8 surroundings, along with neighbour Fergus McFadden, who’s another welcome addition to what is easily the city’s most vibrant area.
Job one this morning was a defensive lineout review. That’s his gig nowadays. Kevin McLaughlin helps with the defensive aspects.
“I work with Jonno and Leo also helped this week just to see what we have to do in attack.”
They’ll miss Gibbes next season when he moves to Toulon. “Yeah. We will. Obviously it depends who comes in.”