Spend a moment chatting with Devin Toner and you will be instantly struck by his humility and his wonderfully balanced views on the world of rugby.
Not one for hyperbole or self-admiration, the 6’11 ”lock calls it a day this weekend as the Barbarians continue their summer tour with a fixture against Spain in Gijon on Saturday evening.
At 35, and with 70 Irish caps to his name, Toner thinks it is important to go out on their own terms and is at peace with their decision.
Exploring the business world
“Look, is it hard?” Not really. I knew Leinster couldn’t extend my contract and, yes, I might be able to extend a season in the Pro D2 or abroad, but if I’m honest, that route wasn’t particularly attractive, ”he said. Planet Rugby.
“I have two young children and my family is really important to me. After 17 years as a professional, having time to get back to them regularly and watch their early years was what I really wanted to do.
“I’m also lucky to be in the position of not having any serious injuries right now – that’s unusual at this stage of my career – and retiring in something approaching one piece is quite a bonus!
“I am moving to a role in financial services and I am keen to explore the business world. Sure, there may be times when I’m tempted back into the game in some form, but that would be very much on a local level at one of my old clubs like Lansdowne and I’m sure it would be something related to lineouts! ”
Toner is one of a handful of elite Irish players who recorded two recent victories against the powerful All Blacks – the famous match in Chicago (2016) and the following victory in Dublin two years later.
Surprisingly omitted by Joe Schmidt 2019 Rugby World Cup squad, Toner has been recalled to the side by 2020 Six Nationsa time that coincided with a real rise in Irish wealth, both on an international and domestic level.
Mathis Galthie follows in her dad’s footsteps
Joe Tekori and Devin Toner get real shipments
Own BaaBaas https://t.co/Twn92LDJ8D
– Illtud W. Dafydd (@IlltudDafydd) June 21, 2022
“We have a good structure,” he said.
“I guess in some respects this goes back to Joe Schmidt and the connectivity he had going from Leinster to Ireland as a coach. The IRFU is very integrated with the clubs, they are moving in the same direction and it’s a really good system. which maximizes the talent in Irish rugby.
“The guys are in a really good place right now. Going to New Zealand is a high expectation and some pretty optimistic results predicted around the fans and press, but in a three-test series against a side of that caliber, my personal opinion is that one away win would be a great result for us.
“A bolt in the two Māori games and it’s a real old school high-intensity tour where a lot of players will learn a lot about themselves and I think it will be great for the youngsters in terms of a back-to-back test of exactly where they are according to that. Standard.
“In the lock department, I was glad to see the improvement of Ryan Baird and the choice of Joe McCarthy. Baird is a really mobile guy, one of the fastest around in sprint tests and McCarthy is a great unit who excels in the stressful work. People also forget , that James Ryan is only 25 years old and is approaching 50 heads – he is always getting better and has become one of the main leaders for the group.
With only one match left in his brilliant career, Toner admits that representing the Barbarians was a career-long ambition and one he is very excited about, declaring, “Oh, it’s a rubble for sure!”
A moment to like
“The barbarians have become so important in a professional era. They are our benchmark of what rugby has evolved, our flashback to the great days of amateurism and all the things that accompany it, however in a professional context.
“The jersey is sure to be nice – I’m sure it’ll get its special place somewhere around the house. However, I would like to formally confirm that at no point do I consider taking back conversions if the opportunity arises!
“Looking back on my career, I have some wonderful memories and have played against some world-class exponents of the business.
“In my formative years, I was a big fan of All Black Ali Williams and playing against the likes of him and Bakkies Botha when they were in Toulon was an honor, and also against the great Victor Matfield at Test Level – one of the greatest. Lineout technicians in the history of the game.
“And of course, no fight has been bigger or more trying than facing my old friend Pauly O’Connell in the clashes against Munster and he remains right at the top of the list of those I have faced.
“But looking back and when it’s all over on Saturday night, I guess I’ll have a moment of self-reflection. My career has been enjoyable and successful, and I know, above all, that as a player, I have been reliable, and that really makes me happy. “
We thank Devin for his time and wish him the best in retirement.