Leinster’s Devin Toner primed to take advantage in Saracens combat zone

first_imgShare on Facebook The quarter-final at the Aviva Stadium will be refereed by a Frenchman, Jérôme Garcès, but he gave Wales latitude to compete at the breakdown when they played England at Twickenham in February. “The breakdown may be a factor,” says Toner. “I have never played in the Premiership but there are a number of good poachers in the Pro14. It is a facet of the game that we like with the aim of securing quick ball for the backs.”Leinster’s attacking game is masterminded by the former England head coach Stuart Lancaster, who was last week compared with the Ireland coach, Joe Schmidt, by Jamie Heaslip. The former Lions and Leinster No 8 cursed the fact he had had to retire through injury because he enjoyed playing the Lancaster way.Standing in Lancaster’s and Leinster’s way will be a former Ireland international, Mark McCall, Saracens’ director of rugby. One of the most innovative attacks in the game will face one of the most aggressive defences.While Saracens struggled to get out of the group stage, not least because of the injuries they accumulated, they have reached the last eight for the seventh consecutive season and have not lost a quarter-final since 2012. It may be first seeds against eighth but little separates the sides.“There is no way we will be taking anything for granted,” says Toner. “They will be a huge challenge with the talent they have. What has happened in Europe so far and Ireland winning the grand slam are all out of the window. A quarter‑final is all about the 80 minutes and we know they will come out with all guns blazing.”The sides have won the tournament five times between them. “Leinster are the top seeds and their Irish players have just come off a grand slam so they will rightly be hot favourites for this game and beyond,” says McCall. “But we do not fear playing away from home and our players relish big occasions. We are going to have to get a lot of things right and we are capable of doing that.” Share on Twitter Champions Cup Topics Since you’re here… The Anglo-Irish record in the Champions Cup this season is the reverse of two seasons ago, with the provinces recording seven victories and the Premiership recording only one, Wasps at home to Ulster in the final set of group matches. Leinster and Munster were the top two seeds while another Pro14 side, the Scarlets, beat La Rochelle in Friday’s quarter-final.However, the Leinster and Ireland second-row Devin Toner takes no encouragement from this. “The record of the Irish sides against the English in Europe this season does not matter this weekend,” he says. “We take a lot of pride in this competition and have a lot of good history in it but we are not looking at statistics. Saracens are a very good side and we know what a challenge it will be.”Two years ago Saracens won the Champions Cup a few months after England had achieved their first Six Nations grand slam for 13 years and Ireland failed to provide a quarter-finalist in Europe for the first time since 1998 and won two games; there was a feeling there had been a sea-change in the European game. Money was talking.English and French clubs had succeeded in making the Champions Cup a tournament that was run by clubs rather than unions, with participation based on merit rather than geography. The Premiership and the Top 14 in France were commercially vibrant and the then Pro12 trailed a distant third in terms of finance. Now, two weeks after Ireland defeated England at Twickenham to secure the grand slam, the talk in rugby is not of financial muscle but the ability to rest leading players throughout the season as the game becomes ever more physically demanding.England’s debrief after a Six Nations campaign in which they slipped from first to fifth concluded there were two main areas that needed addressing: the breakdown and discipline. The Pro14 allows more of a contest for possession after a tackle than the Premiership, something that has filtered into Test rugby this season to England’s discomfiture. Reuse this content Saracens, who retained the Champions Cup last season, face Leinster in Dublin on Sunday cast in the unfamiliar role of underdogs, having crawled into the last eight through the cat flap after results went for them in the final pool matches.Of the eight matches between English and Irish teams in the 2015-16 Champions Cup seven were won by Premiership sides. Leinster’s home victory over Bath proved the exception. “Anglo-French dominance is removing the shine from European rugby and don’t expect that to change,” ran one headline. But change it has. Support The Guardian Share via Email Share on WhatsApp The Observer … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Sign up to the Breakdown for the latest rugby union news Rugby union Read more Read more Share on Pinterest Share on LinkedIn features Relegation becomes live issue as Premiership Rugby plots next course Leinster Share on Messenger Saracenslast_img

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