Saturday 3 December 2016

Devin Toner challenges Ireland to finish autumn off in style against Australia

Published 20/11/2016 | 13:26

Ireland's Devin Toner is keen to beat Australia and finish the autumn series on a high
Ireland's Devin Toner is keen to beat Australia and finish the autumn series on a high

Devin Toner has challenged Ireland to see off Australia on Saturday in order to consider the autumn Test series a success.

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Ireland have claimed their maiden Test victory over New Zealand this November, but Toner insists Joe Schmidt's men must now finish the month on a high.

New Zealand exacted revenge for their 40-29 defeat to Ireland in Chicago with a grinding 21-9 victory in Dublin on Saturday night.

Ireland bossed territory and possession and forced New Zealand into a string of disciplinary lapses, but could not break the All Blacks' defence.

"I think we do need to beat Australia to be able to call this run of Tests a success," said Ireland lock Toner.

"Australia have had a gruelling tour with a number of big games, and they'll be looking to finish on a high now.

"We want to do that as well, so to do that we know we'll have to prepare very well, pull our socks up and get stuck into things straight away on Monday."

Ireland have moved up to fourth in the world rankings courtesy of their Chicago victory over the All Blacks - but also South Africa's surprise 20-18 loss to Italy in Rome.

Toner believes Ireland must take heart from toppling the back-to-back world champion All Blacks in America, and then running them close in Dublin just two weeks later.

"It's hugely positive for the squad for that win and then another performance against the All Blacks, and I think one of the big things for our confidence is the lads coming off the bench," said Toner.

"Josh Van der Flier was excellent, he had a big presence and slotted in really well.

"Garry Ringrose did a good job when he came on too, slotting in after Robbie Henshaw's injury.

"It's growing the kind of depth that the coaches want and have challenged us as a group to be able to offer."

Australia might have conceded 108 points in three-straight defeats to New Zealand this year, but they still dispatched Wales 32-8 in Cardiff and France 25-23 in Paris this month.

Frustrated by Ireland's sluggish start against New Zealand on Saturday that led to a third-minute try for Malakai Fekitoa, Toner insisted Schmidt's side can ill afford another similar opening against the Wallabies.

"New Zealand came out, kept the ball well and we felt like we were getting off the line and getting the hits in, but they were getting one metre here, one there," said Toner.

"And that helps when they apply pressure, and they thrive on applying pressure.

"Obviously it's not ideal to concede so early on but I don't think we did too badly in pulling ourselves back in.

"But we've got to step it up again now, it's another big challenge and we have to move on quickly because we know Australia will be an extremely tough match."

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