Leinster lock Devin Toner set to miss European quarter-final against Ulster
Ulster could be handed a major boost ahead of their Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final after Leinster second row Devin Toner was listed as a major doubt for the game.
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Toner was revealed to have undergone surgery on an ankle problem sustained in Ireland's defeat to England in the Six Nations last Saturday and is to miss around two months with the injury.
That means the 32-year-old will not only miss the remainder of the Six Nations but, provided he does not make a quick recovery, he will also miss the quarter-final against Ulster at the Aviva Stadium on March 30.
Meathman Toner has been a strong presence in the Leinster engine room for many years, providing a reliable option at the lineout due to his height as well as a tireless work rate, and his loss will be felt.
The 63-times capped Irish international has formed a strong partnership with James Ryan at both provincial and international level and it was likely that head coach Leo Cullen would have turned to his trusted pairing in the last-eight clash.
Toner's absence will also cause Cullen some selection problems as well, as although it is highly likely Scott Fardy will replace him in the second row in a like-for-like swap, that will have implications on the rest of his squad.
With European sides only allowed two non-European players in their matchday squad, Fardy will have to take up one of those slots, which means one of Jamison Gibson-Park or James Lowe will have to miss out.
Starting scrum-half Luke McGrath is still working his way back from injury and should he not make the tie then it is probable that Gibson-Park would take that other non-EU slot as his replacement.
However, that would mean Cullen could not play Lowe, who has been exceptional on the wing for Leinster this season and has scored 18 tries in just 24 appearances.
If McGrath was to return from injury in time then that opens up the possibility of him starting the match, which would allow Lowe to feature but would mean Leinster would have to rely on Nick McCarthy as back-up to McGrath.
Belfast Telegraph Digital