'It's weird coming back in not having a medal in the back pocket'

While the disappointment of Newcastle still lingers, Devin Toner hopes to help Leinster move on at the RDS tomorrow.

IT MAY SERVE as little consolation in the aftermath of European heartache, but defending their Pro14 crown in the next fortnight would be satisfactory compensation for Leo Cullen’s Leinster.

The province are hoping to shake off the physical and psychological effects of last weekend’s Champions Cup final defeat to Saracens as they put their season on the line against Munster at the RDS tomorrow afternoon [KO 2.30pm, eir Sport/Premier Sports].

Devin Toner Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Toner speaking to media at UCD this week. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

In a repeat of last year’s Pro14 last-four showdown in Dublin, Leinster will be looking to extend their recent supremacy over their southern rivals in knockout rugby, having won the last three of their semi-final tussles in both league and European competition.

While the disappointment of Newcastle still lingers, Leinster hope the pain of a first European final defeat will galvanise the group sufficiently to match the intensity, desperation and physicality a well-rested Munster are expected to bring to the capital.

“Yeah we’re bitterly disappointed but we’ve got something to play for this weekend so we’ve got to get back out there, put the head back on and put it behind us,” Devin Toner says.

“It is weird coming back in not having a medal in the back pocket. It’s just something you’ve got to deal with and get on with it. That’s the nature of sport. There is always one winner, one loser. You just have to deal with it and move on and there’s no better week to do it.

“It’s not going to be too hard to get up for this one. Being at home to Munster in a semi-final, particularly in the RDS as well. We really want to put on a good game for our fans. The support has been absolutely amazing and we want to put on a good showing for them, to be honest.”

Having dominated Conference B to finish as runaway leaders, Saturday will be Leinster’s ninth Pro14 in the last 10 years, where their only defeat at this stage of the competition was to Scarlets at the RDS two years ago.

A sell-out crowd of 18,977 is set to descend on the Ballsbridge venue for the latest renewal of this provincial rivalry, with Munster’s defeat of Leinster at Thomond Park over Christmas ending a run of four straight wins for Cullen’s men in the inter-pro fixture.

“There has been a lot of rugby played since then,” Toner continues, referring back to that difficult afternoon for Leinster in Limerick. “We might refer back to it now and again, with their intensity and some of their moves, but largely will be looking at what’s happened since then.

“We know each other so well, as players and teams, but we’ll focus on us more.

Michael Bent, Sean O'Brien and Devin Toner dejected after the game Billy Stickland / INPHO Toner wants to help Leinster keep their season alive on Saturday. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“It was a cracking occasion last year, it was a really tough game. We expect nothing less this year and they’ve obviously had two weeks to prepare for it. They’re going to be up for it, I’ve no doubt.”

After surrendering their European crown to Saracens last Saturday, Leinster will not be prepared to give up their Pro14 title this weekend, but Toner insists there isn’t desperation within the dressing room now that another slip-up will leave them trophyless for the season.

“I think we’re in a good place,” the Ireland second row adds. “You hear everyone saying talking about the fine margins at this level of rugby and what could have happened if we won against Saracens?

“It’s not desperation to win anything but obviously if we don’t win anything at the end of the year it will be a disappointing year, but it’s a really good place for us to be in. To be disappointed with not getting a trophy.

“We’re not desperate to win it, we’re itching to get out and put on a good performance and show what we’re capable of doing, especially against Munster at the RDS.”

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