It’s an interesting anomaly. Devin Toner is third on Leinster’s most capped players –  six more games and he will leapfrog his head coach Leo Cullen into second – but has never played Toulouse before.

That is likely to change this weekend at the Stade Ernest Wallon, but the fact the towering lock, with 67 appearances in Europe’s premier competition, has managed to avoid facing the four-time winners of the competition says a lot about the trajectory of both clubs over the last decade. 

There is of course an element of luck that the sides haven’t been drawn together at the pool stages, while their last meeting, a 32-23 victory for Leinster over the then holders in the 2011 semi-final, saw Toner an unused substitute as Cullen and Nathan Hines began and finished the game at the Aviva Stadium.

That 2010 success for Toulouse marked their fourth time landing the trophy since the competition began in the 1995/96 season. Their expansive attacking plan, rugged forwards and star-name backs meant they were for a period the standard bearers in the competition.

"They are a superpower in Europe. When I was growing up they were the best team in Europe," Toner recalls.

His first taste of action in the Heineken Cup as it was called then was in 2009, a season in which Guy Noves again led his charges to glory.

That team included the likes of Clement Poitrenaud, Vincent Clerc, Yannick Jauzion, Byron Kelleher, Thierry Dusautoir and William Servat. Louis Picamoles, Jean-Baptiste Elissalde and Cedric Heymans had to be content with places on the bench.

However it was the beginning of the end for the French aristocrats.

While they haven’t dined at the top table in the intervening years, Leinster have added three more titles. Broadly speaking, the first decade of the tournament belonged to the Top14 side, while Leinster have shaded proceedings in the last 10 years, notwithstanding strong competition from Toulon and Saracens.

Toulouse have been better this year than they have been over the past couple of years

Both occupy top spot in the roll of honour, but few would back Toulouse to edge out in front any time soon.

"These things are cyclical," Toner remarks when asked about Toulouse’s recent fortunes. "They are on their way back up again. They have been better this year than they have been over the past couple of years. It will be a big test over there on Sunday."

So just where are Stade Toulousain at in the European pecking order?

Last season they competed in the Challenge Cup, eliminated at the pool stages with just three wins, while their previous outing in the Champions Cup was a sobering 41-16 quarter-final drubbing at Thomond Park two years ago.

Freddie Burns’ moment of madness at the Rec may have overshadowed the away victory last weekend, but there are signs that head coach Ugo Mola has this team moving in the right direction.

Maxime Medard steals in to deny Freddie Burns a try

Star dust in the backline is peppered more lightly within the 2018 crop, with Gael Fickou moving to Stade Francais during the summer. Maxime Medard remains a constant threat on the wing, while Maxime Mermoz is the defensive lynchpin at inside centre.

The half-back pairing at Bath, Sebastian Bezy and Zack Holmes, will have been somewhat unfamiliar to many Irish fans, though second-half replacement Romain N'Tamack needs little introduction.

Son of decorated Emile, the first captain to lift the trophy, he has yet to make his Test debut, but it is simply a matter of when, and most likely this November. The utility back was a key figure for the U20s that claimed Six Nations and World Championship honours this year, with Ireland among those to see his play-making and composure at close quarters.

Romain N'Tamack in action against Ireland U20s last year

Full-back Thomas Ramos is also uncapped, while 23-year-old South African winger Cheslin Kolbe made his Springbok debut last month.

The likes of Leonardo Ghiraldini and Charlie Faumuina ensure a rugged, if not particularly mobile, front row, while experience comes in the form of 34-year-old lock Joe Tekori, who is one year younger than former All Black Jerome Kaino, who will miss the game through suspension.

"They are a pretty big pack," Toner says in an understated manner. "They love to get up in the air and contest the lineout ball. They have a lot of springy backrows and contest as much as they can.

"They proved against Bath at the weekend they can do that. That put the jitters up Bath. That’s one of the things we have to try and nail."

Another player Leinster will be pleased not to be facing is 19-stone lock Piula Faasalele, with suspension ruling him out of the opening two rounds.

Domestically there has been steady progress. From a torrid 2016/17 where they finished 12th, Les Rouge et Noir ended last year in third place before eventual Castres ended their interest in the knockout stages.

With four wins from seven in the Top14, their early season form has been somewhat mixed and while teams don’t quite fear travelling to the Stade Ernest-Wallon like perhaps in previous years, there is a feeling that a fully fit and tuned-in Toulouse can give any team a run for their money.

Leinster are bidding for a club record 11th consecutive competition win on Sunday, and on the evidence of the 52-3 demolition of Wasps, they are short odds to complete the feat.

"We wanted to lay down a marker and thankfully we did," Toner says.

The question is, can Toulouse make a statement of their own when the holders come to town?

Follow Toulouse v Leinster via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the News Now app or listen to live and exclusive national radio commentary on RTÉ Radio 1's Sunday Sport.