‘I have to give back to my family’ - Devin Toner to bow out after 16 years

He won’t be dropping down to club rugby with Lansdowne for a farewell lap or two

Devin Toner announced that he will retire from professional rugby at the end of the season, the culmination of a 16-year career that dates back to his Leinster provincial debut in January 2006.

The 35-year-old secondrow won 70 caps for Ireland, three Six Nations winners' medals and was a member of the 2018 Grand Slam winning side. In the blue of Leinster he has to date won four Heineken Cups, a Challenge Cup and seven league winners medals as well as becoming the most capped player in Leinster history.

A popular figure within rugby, the softly spoken Meath native, is keen to spend more time with his family, wife Mary and children, Max and Grace and to complete his studies (QFAs) in the area of financial advice.

He won’t be dropping down to club rugby with Lansdowne for a farewell lap or two. He laughed: “I don’t see myself playing again. I have never seen myself as a coach. I have to give back to my family.

“The sacrifices they go through in my professional rugby career is phenomenal and I think being a coach is probably worse than being a player. They are in the office for longer hours and they don’t get any days off. Whether something small crops up in Lansdowne or something else (we’ll see). I am going to take a step back for the first couple of months and see what happens then.”

So if he had to select a couple of memories from his time in the blue and the green jerseys that were particularly special, what would they be? "You can't look past the 2018 season, the double with Leinster, Europe and the League.

“That’s probably my favourite European Cup as well because that’s the one in which I played the most. I started all the games and started the final so that’s my favourite Leinster career highlight.

"(In terms of) Ireland, I can't look past the Grand Slam (2018) but I think Chicago as well was an unbelievable occasion, beating the All Blacks for the first time. My first Six Nations win in 2014 in the Stade de France was huge as well.

“That was my first time starting over there with Ireland and to win the Six Nations in that fashion was pretty awesome. Looking back, Chicago was such a savage weekend because it all came together. There is a lot to pick from which is a sign of a good career.”

No distractions

He was asked why he was announcing his decision, to which he responded: “I wanted to get it out of the way. I didn’t want there to be any distractions at the end of the year.

"I know there's a good few young lads knocking on the door this year. You look at someone like Joe McCarthy, who is playing a blinder in every game and you've obviously got Ross Molony who is playing the best rugby of his career. I think he's starting to become a real leader in the team.

"You've obviously got James Ryan, you've got Ryan Baird, but there is a lot of rugby to be played. I will be on call whenever Leo needs me to do what he wants. Hopefully I'll be a part of it."

Meanwhile Leo Cullen was cautiously optimistic when asked about the likelihood of James Ryan returning to Leinster colours in the medium term. The secondrow suffered a head injury in Ireland's victory over England in the Six Nations, an incident that saw Charlie Ewels receive a red card.

“He (Ryan) obviously got a fair old whack in the game,” Cullen said. “He seems to have come through okay. He’s not back with us. He is just having some downtime at the moment. And we’ll make sure he’s seen by all the right people and we will look after him as best as we can.

“That’s the hardest part of the game at the moment, head knocks. Let’s call a spade a spade. We want to make sure we’re doing best by the players and we’ll make sure he’s looked after as well as possible.”

Harry Byrne is due to train this week after missing the Ulster defeat with a rib injury ahead of the United Rugby championship match against Connacht at the Sportsground on Saturday night (7.35) while Ciarán Frawley is back after a facial injury but a decision on his participation will be made later in the week.

There was no further update on the fitness of Andrew Porter (ankle), Jordan Larmour (hip), Will Connors (knee), Ryan Baird (back), Rónan Kelleher (shoulder), Conor O'Brien (hamstring) and Michael Milne (calf).