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Set-piece woes personal issue for Blues lock Devin Toner

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Devin Toner

Devin Toner

Devin Toner

Leinster lineout brain Devin Toner takes their current set-piece issues as "hugely personal".

That is the mindset of the Meath man as the province leaves Europe with a lamentable scrum and lineout return from the back-to-back series against Harlequins.

"I think every lineout caller is the same. It is a hugely personal thing," he said.

"If a lineout doesn't go well, they think they haven't played well which is 100% accurate.

"I would take that personally that the lineout didn't function well."

Would it be fair to say you are on a road to nowhere without the launch platform from those basic elements? "You're 100% right," he told the assembled media.

"We had a forwards meeting this morning. Even though we did win, lads felt down after it because we didn't show our ability. Set-piece is a huge part of that.

"If you look at the lineout, we won eleven out of fourteen. But, it's how we play off it," was his honest appraisal.

The scrum was even worse. It cost penalties and points as referee Romain Poite warned both Jack McGrath and Mike Ross about what they were doing there.

"Our scrum, we weren't getting what we wanted. We weren't able to play off it basically. Our percentages were way down there.

"It is something we need to look at, we need to rectify quickly."

This is a two-part problem. There is the issue of what you do about it. There is also the issue of what they, the opposition, do too.

"'Quins are one of the best defensive lineouts out there," reflected Toner.

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"(George) Robson has won the most steals out there in The Premiership. It was very hard to predict where he was going to go.

"What he likes to do is he likes to gamble on whether to stay in the middle or got to the front and they've got (Charlie) Matthews at the tail to block off any ball there."

This is not just a one-off. A trend is starting to emerge. Leinster could not solve the problems set by Harlequins at scrum or lineout.

Jack McGrath looked the worse for wear when replaced. He is surely in line for a rest period.

"It's kind of hard to put your finger on why things are going south, I suppose," said Toner.

At least, Leinster churned out the win without ever threatening to tear holes in Harlequins.

"We're obviously delighted that we won. It's the frustration of that we know that we could have played better and we didn't, that we know we have the performance in us but that it didn't come out.

"I think that's where the frustration lies in that we know we have class players in the squad, training has been going well, it's sharp.

"But it's just the knowing that we can play better that the lads are frustrated."

This is a time of the year when looking back only gets you into more trouble. The problems have been identified. A commitment has been made to resolve them.

There are three Interpros coming up in the PRO12, starting at home to Connacht on Friday night.

"If we beat Connacht we're in the top four which is where we want to be. Connacht are just one point behind us.

"Munster and Ulste r are way ahead of us. Everyone is going to be taking points off each other.

"It's massively important to us. It's kind of make or break for our season," he added.


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