TO EVERYONE ELSE, it is a dead rubber, a box to be ticked; a game that will be dwarfed by the enormity of those matches scheduled for tomorrow.
But to Devin Toner, tonight’s date with Ospreys (Live 8.15pm, TG4, eir Sport) is something much greater than that. This appearance, the 261st of his Leinster career, draws him level with Gordon D’Arcy’s provincial appearance record. To add further context to Toner’s longevity, the team he made his debut against, way back in 2006, is no longer in existence.
At that stage, Leinster’s trophy cabinet looked somewhat bare.
They’d won a Celtic League, but nothing else. Now, they’ve added six more of those trophies (the Celtic League reinventing itself as the PRO14) as well as four European Cups and a Challenge Cup. Add in the three Six Nations titles Toner has won with Ireland and you have a fairly decorative CV to be proud of.
Another title comes tonight, the joint all-time appearance holder for Leinster.
Click Here: Samon Rugby Shop
Keeping him company in the pack is Scott Fardy, one of six internationals in Leinster’s team – which is quite the accomplishment when you remember that a further 12 are in the match day 23 for Ireland’s game against England tomorrow, while Dan Leavy, James Ryan and Garry Ringrose are all injured.
A familiar sight: Toner claims a lineout. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
There is a milestone too for Ospreys’ Dan Evan, who makes his 200th appearance in the Guinness PRO14.
Rhys Henry makes his first Ospreys start while Cai Evans returns from lengthy injury. “Leinster have a final to look forward to and various bits and pieces, they are much further down the track in their progression and they are the benchmark for people to measure themselves against,” said the Ospreys head coach, Toby Booth.
“It’s another opportunity for the Ospreys to move forward, as a group and to see how much we can transfer on a weekly basis. The one thing I would celebrate around this group of players is that they learn the lessons pretty quickly.
“That is a sign of a team which has potential and we need to keep pushing that potential into performance and wins. We talk about having pride in our performance, so when we look back at it, we have pride in what we do.”
Tonight pride will most likely come before a fall.