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Dev: Saints will come with confidence


Devin Toner. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Devin Toner. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Devin Toner. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Ireland's Devin Toner refused to take the bait on England coach Eddie Jones' chest-out statements as a reflection of confidence or of arrogance.

Anything less than the Six Nations crown will be a backward step for the 2016 Grand Slam winners as they chase New Zealand in their stated aim to become the best in the world.

"That's him saying that. I'm sure he's breeding that into the players as well," said the man from Moynalvey.

England stand ready to challenge the All Blacks world-record of 18 internationals unbeaten.

They have made it to 14 for the first time since 1992 and the completion of back -to-back Grand Slams would taken them out to 19 straight.

"It's a confidence thing when you go the whole year unbeaten. That's what you want.

"When you get that confidence from winning you want to keep going, keep getting better."

This takes us neatly back around to the confidence Northampton Saints will take from the returning Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood after England's Autumn Grand Slam.

"Yeah, it's huge for them as players, being involved in something so positive.

"Coming back into the club set-up, it will spur the rest of the players to be better.

"They have a winning culture now and they will try and bring it into the club."

The bones of Northampton's place in the English game is founded on a fierce set-piece.

It is no co-incidence Saints' contribution to England's recent five tests was confined to the forward pack.

"Well, I think as a team, they are very set piece driven, really forward orientated," issued Toner.

This is not to under-estimate their back division where there are any number of threats.

Their problem, like every other three-quarter line, is that they depend on a quality supply of ball to break open watertight defences.

"They love their maul, they love their scrum. They want to get on top of you that way, I think.

"It is in the back of our heads that they are probably going to try and do that again."

It will all start in the trenches where Leinster will have to meet bully-boy tactics with bully-man tactics.

"We know they have a world class lineout, so I think we're obviously going to be up against that and we'll have to negate that."

Mr Automatic for Ireland is certainly so for Leinster as the likes of Mike McCarthy, Ian Nagle, Hayden Triggs and Ross Molony fight it out to be his partner.

"We've done well to put structures in place so that everyone can slip in and out.

"There is a huge amount of competition for the second-row at the minute.

"There's no injuries and everyone is kind of raring to go."