Tuesday 21 November 2017

Sean Cronin: O'Connell and Toner can be a dynamic duo

Nick Purewal

Leinster "rock" Devin Toner can form a potent pairing with captain Paul O'Connell in Ireland's second row, according to hooker Sean Cronin.

Towering 6ft 11in Toner will line up alongside Munster talisman O'Connell from the start in Saturday's autumn international clash with Australia in Dublin.

The 27-year-old lock saw off Mike McCarthy and Dan Tuohy for Ireland's number-four berth, after impressing in the 40-9 Samoa victory.

Now Leinster club-mate Cronin has backed the lineout specialist to forge a powerful relationship with 34-year-old O'Connell in head coach Joe Schmidt's side.

Former Connacht front-rower Cronin explained: "Dev has been a rock in the Leinster pack this year and he has stepped up to the plate the last 18 months.

"It is fantastic for him, a huge opportunity.

"I thought he did well last week and it is great that he is getting another opportunity and Paulie is coming in next to him.

"I'm sure they can get a good relationship going."

Cronin takes a seat on the bench for Saturday's second autumn clash, with Ulster's Rory Best once again commanding the number two shirt.

Ireland bulldozed Samoa with a brutally-accurate driving maul try for Peter O'Mahony last weekend.

But Cronin knows Ewen McKenzie's Australia will not be so easy to dominate in the tight exchanges.

Backing Schmidt's men to keep their aerial set-piece work simple and tidy, Cronin said the new coach's high-pressure approach is already paying training dividends.

"I thought the lads did fantastic with the drive last week and really got us into the game," he said.

"I think we were probably struggling a bit in the first half, trying to make inroads into the Samoan defence, so it was a good way of getting into the game.

"It was great to maul them over, (forwards coach) John Plumtree was delighted with it., so we are hoping for another one this weekend.

"When you break the line-out down to the throw, the lift and the jump, if you can all three aspects of that correct and everyone goes about their job efficiently, then we believe we have the capability to cause teams problems there.

"If everyone does their job then we have an opportunity to squeeze teams. Intensity is Joe's middle name really.

"He demands what he does from his players and training is no different.

"He is trying to bring that in, game speed, game decisions, that have to be made with the snap of a finger.

"So the sessions have been fairly intense but they've been enjoyable - short and sharp.

"It is great to see Joe (Schmidt) so up for it, he knows how to get his players going and he has the lads well primed for the weekend."

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