Toner returns for Ireland’s New Zealand Test
The lock has been restored to the line-up.
Lock Devin Toner has been drafted in to start Saturday’s clash with New Zealand as Ireland look to shore up their lineout in Dublin.
Boss Joe Schmidt has restored Toner to Ireland’s starting line-up after the lineout failed to fire in last weekend’s patchy 28-17 win over Argentina.
Fit-again Rob Kearney and Garry Ringrose slot into Ireland’s backline, with scrum-half Kieran Marmion shaking off an ankle knock to start against the back-to-back world champions.
Dan Leavy replaces Sean O’Brien at flanker, after the Leinster star broke his arm against the Pumas.
Connacht centre Bundee Aki has also shaken off a minor leg issue to make his first appearance against the country of his birth.
The 28-year-old once quit rugby to work in an Auckland bank, but will now win his 12th Ireland cap in Dublin this weekend.
All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster cranked up the mind games earlier this week when offering a quizzical response to being asked if former Chiefs centre Aki fell into the category of one who got away.
“He’s been over here a while now, I mean you have moulded him into an Irish man: he looks like an Irish man now doesn’t he?” Foster said.
Ireland boss Schmidt will no doubt feel Aki can shake off any outside distractions and keep his cool in the heat of battle against his Kiwi compatriots on Saturday.
Head coach Schmidt admitted flanker Leavy is still managing “soreness” from last weekend’s win over Argentina, but was fit enough to be named in the starting line-up.
“We had a few guys who needed to get through a couple of training sessions,” Schmidt said.
“It’s never ideal, but even at the end of training we were still making some decisions for Saturday.
“We expect Dan (Leavy) to train fully tomorrow. With Dan, he’s only really recently back playing after injury so we’re just trying to manage him.
“He trained very well on Tuesday, but he’s had a bit of soreness. We’re expecting he will be up running and ready. He’s just been sore from the week before.”
IRELAND TEAM TO FACE NEW ZEALAND ON SATURDAY: R Kearney (Leinster) K Earls (Munster), G Ringrose (Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), J Stockdale (Ulster), J Sexton (Leinster), K Marmion (Connacht), C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster, capt), T Furlong, D Toner, J Ryan (all Leinster), P O’Mahony (Munster), D Leavy (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster). Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, A Porter (all Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), J van der Flier, L McGrath, J Carbery, J Larmour (all Leinster).