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You're up against Paul O'Connell, that's always in the back of your head -- Devin Toner

The Leinster lock will be urging his pack to get the basics right at Thomond Park this weekend.

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

EVEN FOR DEVIN Toner, the shorter figure of Paul O’Connell can sometimes be an imposing one.

This Saturday at Thomond Park, when the season really heats up with its second inter-pro, the Dubliner is likely to pack down directly opposite the ex-Lions captain once more.

Even though preparation to face Munster will take the same meticulous shape as every other game in the league or European Cup, there is no denying that these clashes of red and blue hold much more weight than the sum of their parts.

The international-trial theory makes it so. These moving parts are effectively competing for an Ireland jersey. Toner’s job this Saturday is to lay down a marker against O’Connell so that he can be named alongside him come November.

“You still have to do all the detail, all the analysis,” Toner said from a towering position over TheScore.ie yesterday.

“”Obviously it’s in the back of your head that you’re coming up against Paul O’Connell. And the November Tests are coming up so all the international coaches will be watching, so it’s a bit of added pressure. But I suppose that’s what’s needed in the professional game. If you’re going to succeed at this level, you have to succeed at these games.”

As has become the tradition, Munster versus Leinster is the prelude to the opening rounds of the Heineken Cup. What comes as a break in tradition is that Munster will enjoy home advantage for this first meeting of the season for the first time since 2007.

“A lot of it is being back at the RDS,” Toner says of part-time role as an outside back during some free-flowing phases against Cardiff last Friday.

image©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

“We love being in front of the big crowd and when you hear them getting behind you, it spurs you on a bit. It’s a good feeling when you get a couple of points up and the free-flowing rugby comes.”

The big crowd will be even bigger this weekend, but they certainly won’t be behind Leinster.

I doubt it,” Toner says with a wincing smile, “but we just have to work to get our platform right. Over the last couple of games we haven’t got a platform – our line-out and scrum – right. We did that well against Cardiff, but we still have to take a step on from there.”

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Sean Farrell

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