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Victory would soften sting of Toner's World Cup blow

Brendan Fanning


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Ireland's Devin Toner. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ireland's Devin Toner. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Ireland's Devin Toner. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

A few weeks ago Eddie Jones warned France they would have to deal with "absolute brutality" when the sides met in Paris. France coped. Yesterday the England coach sent Courtney Lawes to face the media after the captain's run, sporting a shiner, bulging under a stitched scar. Nothing easy about this game lads. Received and understood.

These things often look worse than they feel, but without a dramatic improvement it's hard to imagine Lawes will have anything like 20-20 vision this afternoon. Remarkably, however, for a country with such depth, back row is a problem for them at the minute. They need the Saint to deliver the physical payload required by the coach.

As for Ireland, they need Devin Toner to continue as if nothing interrupted his international career. Today is his 70th cap for Ireland, his first start since the World Cup warm-up series last summer, the tournament he would watch from his living room. Funny old game, though: good news for Iain Henderson, with the birth of his son, has meant glad tidings too for Toner, and the rebirth of his career as a starting player. As Caelan Doris discovered, when switching from starter to replacement without doing anything wrong or right, circumstances can overtake you. Anyway, Toner is delighted.

"It means the world to me," he said after an uneventful run-through at Twickenham yesterday. "I do have the knowledge that I am probably in the twilight of my career, so I probably won't have a lot of chances left in me, so I'm going to try to enjoy every game that I can. So you could say that I do appreciate it a bit more, yeah."

Having missed out on a World Cup, he might have the compensation of a Triple Crown. Small compensation.

The reality is that a win today would take Ireland closer to a Grand Slam or Championship, and if both were taken off the table by Italy - unthinkable - or France, nobody would be waving around the bronze medal.

Still, for someone of Simon Easterby's vintage, it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. "We probably didn't have the success that teams had in the last 10 years, so Triple Crowns were precious," he said.

"They're probably the fiercest rivalries against the three countries you've got to beat to win the Triple Crown. For this year, it's two home games and one away, and that one away is England here, and we've done it in the past in the early 2000s.

"We came here and won the Triple Crown but in those games, it didn't just happen. A huge amount of work went into receiving that trophy. For me, it's still hugely important."

England are favourites to make it three in a row over Ireland, at minus seven points.

Sunday Indo Sport