When Dev' comes calling Ireland have to answer what Wales throw at them

Devin Toner arriving for Irish training yesterday Picture: Sportsfile

Des Berry

Vanity doesn't come into it for Devin Toner. The role of the lineout caller is to see what is best for the team and decide accordingly.

It would be close to sacrilege to play Toner and not use the tallest man in the Six Nations to gather in ball.

"I know you see the stats and that I throw a lot to myself and I know they're going to see that and want to mark me up," he said.

"Then, there's a lot of second-guessing, 'will I throw or will I not?' I've kind of evolved over the years."

It is something akin to a poker game played in mid-air. The stakes are high too.

Ireland love to launch their power plays from fast ball off the top.

They just have to be careful about how they go about it.

"Again, you change with every game. Every team is different," said Toner.

"You do your analysis and see how they're defending and evolve with it.

"I won't say it's got harder over the years. I've kind of evolved as a player and a caller."


Toner is a big target for a hooker to hit and the temptation is there for Rory Best to hit his money man more often than not.

"You can't say 'aw he's taller than you, he should catch the ball before you.'"

It is more complicated than that. There are a number of moving parts which are inter-dependent and inter-connected.

"It's about the throw as well. If the throw's down here (around chest high) it doesn't matter what height you are, they're going to be able to steal it. It's all about everything really."

The looming presence of Alun Wyn-Jones, Welsh lineout caller Jake Ball, Justin Tipuric and Sam Warburton give Wales a wide array of jumpers to hoist towards the sky.

There has been a Plan B hatched should the Ireland lineout malfunction.

"You do have bail-outs, calls in your head, how you can change it up, so if they paint a picture we can go somewhere else. It's all about being able to see what they're doing in a split-second and call around that."

Ireland's impeccable discipline will come under heavy scrutiny from Wales' direct running.

They will have to do better than they did the last time they played the home side in Cardiff two years ago.

"I think you always learn," acknowledged Toner.

"In that game, we gave away too many penalties and they went 12-0 up and we were clawing our way back from then.

"It's just all about that discipline and not giving away those stupid penalties."