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Caps Milestone For Toner In PRO14 Final

Caps Milestone For Toner In PRO14 Final

Devin Toner will take over from Gordon D'Arcy as Leinster's most-capped player of all-time ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Long-serving second row Devin Toner will become Leinster’s most-capped player of all-time when they host Munster in Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 final.

Toner will run out at the RDS (kick-off 5pm) for his 262nd appearance for the province, beating Gordon D’Arcy’s previous record which has stood since 2015.

Only four players are retained from the team that lost 24-19 to the Ospreys last weekend – Rory O’Loughlin and Dave Kearney in the back-line, and Toner and Scott Fardy, who reverts to the lock position.

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Luke McGrath will captain Leinster for the first time in a final, leading a back-line that has Hugo Keenan, Jordan Larmour and Robbie Henshaw straight back in from Ireland duty.

Returning at full-back, Keenan played every minute of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign. Dave Kearney, who has scored 10 tries in all competitions for Leinster this season, completes the back-three.

O’Loughlin reverts to midfield where he partners the in-form Henshaw, while Ross Byrne gets the nod at out-half with Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton backing him up from the bench.

The defending champions’ starting pack is made up of Toner, Fardy, Rhys Ruddock and five players who helped Ireland to a memorable victory over England last Saturday.

Cian Healy, Ronan Kelleher and Andrew Porter combine together in the front row, and Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan are also back in blue at openside flanker and number 8 respectively.

Sexton spearheads a strong set of replacements, including Jamison Gibson-Park, who is set to win his 100th Leinster cap, and James Lowe who is poised to reach the half-century mark.

Head coach Leo Cullen commented: “Such a brilliant fixture, isn’t it? For lots of different reasons. It should be a great challenge, Munster are a team that we know well.

“We know that they know our guys very, very well and I think one of the players said this week it’s strange when we’ve spent the last eight weeks together as best friends and now they’ll come bashing out against each other, after battling together for the past two months.

“You can see different glimpses of Munster and how they’re evolving their game as well, the coaches, so it’s just important that we understand all the different threats.

“There’s all the traditional threats – but there are some more recent ones as well. Joey (Carbery) is another good Blackrock man and it’s good to see him come back in as well from them. So big, big game for him as well.”

On the subject of his record-breaking lock, the Leinster boss added: “Dev’s a great character, very, very popular amongst the group. In many ways he’s your classic gentle giant.

“I remember first watching him play for the Irish schoolboys against Wales in Donnybrook and he’s definitely a standout individual, you don’t forget him when you see him.

“To see how he’s progressed from those early days and what he’s achieved in the game is incredible really. His durability is what stands out in terms of becoming the record caps holder, overtaking Darce, and what he’s achieved with Ireland as well.

“It’s been amazing and it means a huge amount to Dev and his family, in terms of hitting this milestone and all the things he’s done in a Leinster jersey. Hopefully he’ll have a big day tomorrow because it’s a huge game.”

LEINSTER (v Munster): Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Rory O’Loughlin, Robbie Henshaw, Dave Kearney; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath (capt); Cian Healy, Ronan Kelleher, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Scott Fardy, Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: James Tracy, Ed Byrne, Tadhg Furlong, Ross Molony, Ryan Baird, Jamison Gibson-Park, Jonathan Sexton, James Lowe.