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250-cap lock Devin Toner continues to 'nurture' Leinster's young guns

The 34-year-old remains a key part of the set-up alongside fellow veteran Scott Fardy.

DEVIN TONER HAS always tended to fly a little under the radar – except for those moments when he rises highest in the lineout – and it was no different two weekends ago as he won his 250th cap for Leinster.

While many rugby folk were understandably more focused on Ireland’s return to action in the Six Nations, Leinster’s big win over Zebre at the RDS was most notable for the return of Dan Leavy.

Toner was typically effective as he reached a major milestone and he will draw another cap closer to Gordon D’Arcy’s all-time record of 261 this evening as he starts against Glasgow Warriors in the Guinness Pro14 [KO 8.15pm, eir Sport].

The 34-year-old’s Ireland could be at an end as Andy Farrell looks to the future in the second row, but Toner remains a vital influence within the Leinster squad.

“It probably didn’t get the credit it deserved,” says Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster of Toner reaching 250.

“We had four lads who played for Leinster the first time against Zebre and I was thinking to myself, ‘Say Dan Sheehan getting his first start, for him to achieve what Devin Toner has achieved, if he played 25 games a year he’s got to play for 10 years.

“Ten years playing 25 games a year for Leinster to achieve what Devin Toner has achieved. It’s pretty good going – plus international rugby.”

These windows of the season when Leinster have a large contingent of players away with Ireland are crucial for the development of younger players.

Hugo Keenan and Will Connors came to the fore this time last year and hopefuls like Tommy O’Brien, Harry Byrne, Jimmy O’Brien, and Scott Penny will be aiming to impress against Glasgow tonight.

But the elder statesmen like Toner and 36-year-old Scott Fardy are pivotal in allowing the younger players to show their abilities.

leinsters-scott-fardy Scott Fardy is another big influence in the Leinster squad. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“One thing that always impresses me about Dev and Scott – another good example, he obviously played international rugby at the highest level – is that they’re actually enthused by playing with young players.

“It actually motivates them and they feel a sense of responsibility to nurture and guide them along.

“So they’re great with the young players and the challenge for the young player is to make sure they’re not in awe of the senior players and they can contribute and add value.”

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Lancaster believes the inclusivity that Leinster have created for the young guns is essential in allowing them to thrive. 

“I think it’s become part of the culture at Leinster, I don’t necessarily think it’s always been there. I think it’s become part of the culture where the young players are involved from the very start.

“Even when all the international senior players are around they’re involved in the reviews, they’re involved in learning and as a consequence, it doesn’t come as a shock when they get asked to step in.

“That said, they still have to deliver so it’s all very well having this link between your academy and your seniors, but part of the challenge for the young players is to make sure they deliver, otherwise the window for them can become very short.”

Glasgow Warriors:

15. Huw Jones
14. Tommy Seymour
13. Nick Grigg
12. Sam Johnson
11. Niko Matawalu
10. Pete Horne
9. George Horne

1. Aki Seiuli
2. Grant Stewart
3. D’arcy Rae
4. Rob Harley
5. Hamish Bain
6. Ryan Wilson (captain)
7. Tom Gordon
8. TJ Ioane

Replacements:

16. George Turner
17. Alex Allan
18. Enrique Pieretto
19. Chris Fusaro
20. Fotu Lokotui
21. Jamie Dobie
22. Brandon Thomson
23. Ratu Tagive

Leinster:

15. Jimmy O’Brien
14. Cian Kelleher
13. Rory O’Loughlin
12. Tommy O’Brien
11. Dave Kearney
10. Harry Byrne
9. Luke McGrath

1. Peter Dooley
2. James Tracy
3. Michael Bent
4. Ross Molony
5. Devin Toner
6. Josh Murphy
7. Scott Penny
8. Rhys Ruddock (captain)

Replacements:

16. Dan Sheehan
17. Michael Milne
18. Tom Clarkson
19. Jack Dunne
20. Scott Fardy
21. Hugh O’Sullivan
22. David Hawkshaw
23. Dan Leavy

Referee: Ben Whitehouse [WRU].

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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