Leinster received a timely boost yesterday with the news experienced lock Devin Toner has signed a contract with the IRFU to keep him at the province until at least June 2020.
The towering Meath native picked up his 42nd international cap against Australia at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday, and with more than 10 years of service under his belt at Leinster, he was thrilled to re-affirm his commitment to Irish rugby.
He said: “I am delighted to have re-signed with the IRFU and Leinster. There is a huge amount of talent coming through at Leinster and it is an exciting time to be involved with the province. There is a real opportunity to be successful at both provincial and national level over the coming years and I look forward to playing a part in helping to achieve that success.”
Along with many of those who featured in the recent Guinness Series, Toner is expected to sit out Leinster’s home game with Newport Gwent Dragons tomorrow evening (kick-off 7.35pm).
However, after making his international debut in a comprehensive win for Ireland over Canada on November 12, Blues scrum-half Luke McGrath has returned to the provincial set-up. Indeed, the 23-year-old (born in Canada) appeared from the replacements bench in Leinster’s 29-38 reversal against the Scarlets seven days ago, and he admitted the defensive effort from Leo Cullen’s charges will need to improve substantially if they are to return to winning ways in the Guinness PRO12.
“Our defence is going to have to be much better. That’s for a start. We were slipping off one-on-one tackles [against Scarlets]. Even though our system was good, we were just slipping off tackles you’d make nine times out of 10. That’s was the one real disappointment, but our mindset has to be massive,” McGrath admitted. “Over the last couple of years with Dragons; 2015 we lost twice to them, and then last year we lost over in Rodney Parade. They are a team that seem to beat us the last couple of years, so it’s a massive test. One thing was discipline. Just letting them have easy outs, and too many cards and stuff like that. It’s going to have to be a major focus for us.” McGrath is expected to be joined in the Leinster squad for this game by Birr native Peter Dooley, who feels he is benefiting from the intense competition he gets from Jack McGrath, Cian Healy, and Andrew Porter for the position of loosehead prop.
“The competition for loosehead is fairly hot in Leinster. The two boys played well at the weekend [against Australia] again, then there’s myself and Andrew Porter. It is tough alright, but they’re such good players you learn so much off [them]. Everyone has different aspects of the game, you pick up on that from each one of them.”
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