What does a rugby player do in lockdown when there are no matches to play?
Well, if you are Devin Toner and you have a huge interest in food, you start re-exploring the canon of Italian dishes you would normally have the night before games.
Toner, the tallest man in rugby, standing at 6ft 11in, would usually have lasagne or another carb-loaded meal on the eve of lining out for Ireland or Leinster, his club for the last 14 years and for whom he has won 240 caps.
Over the last few weeks, the second-row has rediscovered some of the more traditional cooking methods from Italy, including one that involves using milk in lasagne instead of tinned tomatoes.
Since he posted his recipe for the 57,000 followers on his @devtoner Instagram page, it has attracted lots of likes.
He received one message from a mother who says her son now asks for “the Devin Toner lasagne”.
The Co Meath man, who first lined out for Ireland in 2010, says: “I come from a big foodie family. My mother is a great cook. My brother and sister are all big into cooking and I kind of grew up with it.
“My wife Mary is a great cook too and trained at Ballymaloe Cookery School before setting up her own Bakers and Cakers business.”
Toner (33) has a degree in sports management from UCD but he isn’t ruling out doing something in the food world after he hangs up his boots.
“Food is something I get a lot of pleasure from, so if I could get into it I’d jump at the chance, to be honest. But in what manner, I don’t know. I wouldn’t be a chef. I don’t think I could do that,” he said.
“I’ve come to the realisation that I do really enjoy cooking and I would like to be involved in the sector somehow but what that entails, I don’t know yet. I’ll be on a mission now to see how I can get into it.”
Until Leinster team training resumes, potentially next month, Toner is running three times a week, doing weights in the garden and helping to look after the couple’s son Max (2).
Dropped by Joe Schmidt for the Ireland squad going to the World Cup in Japan last year, Toner was reinstated by the new Ireland coach Andy Farrell earlier this year.
Toner’s cookery videos include gnocchi and chicken parmigiana made with leftover breadcrumbs from the sourdough he bakes once a week. The lovely pattern on the top of the loaves comes from the proving basket which goes into the fridge overnight, he explains.
For his cannelloni, he uses pork, beef, ricotta and homemade marinara and bechamel sauces.
Cooking at home has always been a popular hobby amongst the professional rugby players with Leinster and Ireland.
Former prop Mike Ross held the title of undisputed BBQ expert for years but, now retired, his title is up for grabs.
“There are much better barbecuers in the squad like Cian Healy and a couple of others,” said Toner.
Source: Irish News