Monday 21 January 2019

Devin Toner says Ireland confident ahead of Grand Slam decider at Twickenham

Ireland’s confidence is sky-high ahead of Grand Slam showdown with England at Twickenham.

Ireland Training and Press Conference – Carton House
Ireland Training and Press Conference – Carton House

By Nick Purewal, Press Association Sport

Devin Toner insists record-breaking Ireland’s feel-good factor is “at an all-time high” ahead of Saturday’s Grand Slam decider against England.

Ireland claimed a record 11th win with last weekend’s 28-8 victory over Scotland that secured a third NatWest 6 Nations title in five years.

Now Joe Schmidt’s men will chase just a third-ever Grand Slam in Saturday’s last-weekend showdown with England in London.

Ireland v Scotland – NatWest Six Nations – Aviva Stadium

A first victory at Twickenham since 2010 would spark joyous St Patrick’s Day celebrations, and Leinster lock Toner believes Ireland head to England with the confidence to pull off what would represent a stunning triumph.

“Confidence is at an all-time high, it’s big within the squad,” said Toner.

“Getting those 11 wins in a row, it’s huge. It definitely boosts the feeling.

“And to claim another win now would be huge for the squad, absolutely huge.

“Everyone knows it. But we also know what a huge challenge it is.

“England have a proud record at Twickenham, it’s a vocal crowd and a cauldron atmosphere definitely awaits.

“We’re obviously aware of how tough it will be but it would be a huge feather in the cap for us as well.”

Leinster stalwart Toner has faced his strongest competition for a starting Ireland shirt under boss Schmidt this term, with the rapid emergence of lock prodigy James Ryan.

The 21-year-old Leinster youngster has finally shaken off a clutch of niggling injuries to step into Ireland’s starting ranks – and has immediately excelled.

Toner recently admitted he shed nine kilograms in the summer in a bid to boost his impact around the field under pressure from the likes of Ryan and Ulster’s Iain Henderson – and he now feels his form is peaking once again.

“I think I’m playing some of the best rugby I’ve played in a while and that’s due to the competition this year,” said the 57-cap second row.

“We’re all quite interchangeable, Joe (Schmidt) has done his best to build that into the squad, so anyone he puts in can do a job.

Ireland Training and Press Conference – Carton House

“When you look at someone like James Ryan, when you have a talent like that it’s hard not to play him. Iain Henderson as well has been brilliant.

“Hopefully I put my hand up for selection last week, but we’ll see how it goes.

Ireland will be expected to keep changes to a minimum when announcing their line-up to face England on Thursday, with Peter O’Mahony and Rob Kearney backed to shake off minor niggles.

Back-rower O’Mahony and full-back Kearney sat out Tuesday’s training session, but are both expected to be fit for Saturday’s England clash.

Hailing Ireland’s growing depth, Toner added: “I’m not really surprised by how well James Ryan has gone to be honest, no.

“We see youngsters behind the scenes and the talents they have and everything they put in.

“I’m delighted for him that he’s going so good, and that he’s in our squad, because he’s already boosting the team.

“The young lads like Ryan and Andrew Porter have old heads on their shoulders, and they just take everything in their stride. They have already shown how well they can take the pressure.”

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