Saturday 16 December 2017

Toner ready to stake claim for vital role in heart of engine room

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

DEVIN TONER has been around for quite some time, but this evening marks a watershed moment in his career.

The 6ft 10ins second-row has been on the periphery for a long time at both provincial and international level. He has had to suffer set-backs, had his ability questioned and managed to survive.

Asked whether he will look back on today as a pivotal one in his career, he smiled and deflected the question by saying: "We'll see how it goes."

The big man is not prone to big statements, but he will be expected to deliver one alongside Paul O'Connell in the engine room against Rob Simmons and James Horwill. He helped disrupt Samoa's line-out last weekend and will be hoping for more of the same at Lansdowne Road this evening.

"It is the biggest game that I've played in and I am really looking forward to the Test. It is the first top-tier side that I've come up against, so I suppose you could put it that way," he said when asked if he was looking at playing Australia as a second debut of sorts.

Being named to start ahead of Mike McCarthy for the clash with the Wallabies is a significant vote of confidence in the Meathman.

"Dev obviously enjoys winning ball, but a big part of his role is also stealing ball," forwards coach John Plumtree said.


"We've put him into positions where we've given him an opportunity to do that. Also restarts and kick-offs, they are really important parts of the game as well, they are extra set-pieces now.

"The last thing you want to be doing is to concede points straight after you score points or, if you do concede points, you want to be able to win that restart and settle straight away. So, those aspects of his game are obviously really important to us."

What will be important to Toner is lining out alongside O'Connell for the first time from the start and he says he has learned much from the Ireland captain.

"I've learned more in camp here, working with him. How diligent he is in watching the opposition and figuring out when we want to win the ball and how. I am really looking forward to playing with him. It was the first time I did that last week," he explained.

He will share the line-out strategising with the skipper and says that a "co-operative" approach will work out well.

"Without giving too much away, there are specific line-outs in specific areas of the pitch which we'll use," he concluded. "It is very easy to talk to him going into a line-out about what we are going to do and then we do it. It's no hassle."

Irish Independent

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