Sunday 4 December 2016

'Irish rugby isn't going down the drain' - Devin Toner plays down crisis in domestic game

Tom Rooney

Published 26/01/2016 | 13:37

Irish international players Devin Toner, Tommy Ó'Donnell and Rob Herring were on hand in Carton House today as Ulster Bank announced the extension of their partnership with the IRFU. Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Irish international players Devin Toner, Tommy Ó'Donnell and Rob Herring were on hand in Carton House today as Ulster Bank announced the extension of their partnership with the IRFU. Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Leinster lock Devin Toner believes that if high profile Irish players continue to answer the klaxon call of the cash-laden clubs of England and France, the fallout will not be as disastrous as many have predicted.

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Alarm bells have been ringing since Jonathan Sexton’s move to Racing Metro in 2013 heralded to some that a mass exodus of Ireland’s elite talent was afoot.

Such a situation did not immediately materialise, however it now appears that those fears were justified.

JJ Hanrahan left Munster for Northampton in search of more game time last year, before Ian Madigan committed his future to the Bordeaux-Begles.

This week it was confirmed that Marty Moore had penned a three-year deal with Wasps and, as first published by the Irish Independent on Tuesday, Keith Earls looks set for a switch to Premiership Champions Saracens.

What’s more, Simon Zebo is said to be considering multiple offers from France.

Speaking at Carton House ahead of Ireland’s first training session for the forthcoming Six Nations, Toner said that such developments merely reflect the status quo of the modern day game.

“It’s always sad to see a player of that calibre leaving but I wish him the best and, you never know, he might come back,” the second row said of departing Leinster compatriot Moore

“It’s always going to be in the back of your mind, but that’s the nature of the sport. We’re professionals now, everyone has to weigh up their options. Marty felt that was the best for him at this stage of his career.”

Interestingly, Toner also said that the topic is rarely discussed among players when the national squad convenes and that there is no frisson of panic sweeping through the halls of Irish rugby with the prospect of the country’s most prized players trying their hand elsewhere.

“I don’t think it’s a fear. I don’t really know how to answer that, to be honest. It’s not something we sit down and chat about. It goes on an individual basis and whether it can benefit their career or not.

“If you look at the talent that we have in Ireland and in all the provinces, what Joe has tried to do over last couple of years is build that strength in depth.

“There are three or four quality players for every position, so I think when people say that’s Irish rugby gone down the drain, it doesn’t hold any truth for me,” he said.

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