Sunday 16 June 2019

Toner admits he faces massive test against England

Devin Toner remains a vital cog in Ireland’s lineout
Devin Toner remains a vital cog in Ireland’s lineout
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Devin Toner was perhaps the most uncomfortable spectator inside the Aviva Stadium last Saturday as he watched Iain Henderson put in a performance that reiterated just how close he is to a place in the starting XV but this weekend, the Leinster second-row will get his chance to remind Joe Schmidt what he is capable of.

Henderson came in for plenty of plaudits including from Schmidt himself but Toner remains a vital cog in Ireland's lineout.

Toner's second-row partnership with Paul O'Connell played a huge role in Ireland's success over the last two seasons but with the Ulster powerhouse heaping further pressure on his place in the side, he knows that he needs a big performance in Twickenham on Saturday.

Going up against Courtney Lawes and Geoff Parling will give Toner ample opportunity to stake his claim and he admitted that the intensity in training is as competitive as ever, even after Schmidt trimmed his squad for the final time.

"I've said it before, the competition is massive for places and obviously Iain had a pretty good game," Toner acknowledged.

"Obviously he took his try very well and Donnacha (Ryan) did well in that first game against Wales, when he came off the bench and obviously Paulie (O'Connell) as well.

"The competition is massive in the second-row and if I get selected this week, I'll have a massive job to do.

"There is a competitive tension (in training). In the forwards it mainly comes out when we're doing the mauls, because that's the one area where we can just go hell for leather and go after it.

"But, we only had about four competitive ones today so there wasn't much chance to do it. So far it hasn't boiled over yet, there hasn't been any scraps or anything but sure it's always on the brink, in fairness."

Henderson's ball-carrying ability may be on another level to Toner's but the 29-year-old is remaining focused on the strengths that he brings to the side.

"Obviously the main thing would be set-piece, I think, trying to secure our ball, obviously steal it back a few times," he said.

"But I think it's just kinda doing the simple stuff well. I try not to make many mistakes, that's one of the things I've tried to build on over the last number of years so hopefully I'll keep going with that."

Despite the fact that he was assured of his place in the squad, on Sunday evening Toner still found himself nervously refreshing his emails in the hope that the positive one from Schmidt would arrive.

Sure enough it did but having not made the squad at the previous World Cup, he knows how those on the fringes are feeling this week.


"I was delighted and then there was a bit of excitement coming in yesterday, but then it was back to the grindstone and focusing on England because we've obviously got a massive test coming this week.

"You do sympathise with the guys who miss out. Not just for their playing ability, but for lads you're friends with and who you get on with going into squads.

"I feel for Trimby (Trimble). I get on very well with him and I feel for him."

With England naming an almost full-strength side and with Schmidt likely to do the same tomorrow, sentiment will be firmly put to one side as Toner seeks a strong showing to keep Henderson at bay, for a little bit longer at least.

Irish Independent

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