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O'Driscoll: 'If I was Toner I'd be feeling very sorry for myself and wondering whether it was justified'

‘You don’t want to alienate yourself by putting your foot in your mouth and saying something you can’t take back.’

Devin Toner and Josh van der Flier during Ireland training.
Devin Toner and Josh van der Flier during Ireland training.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

BRIAN O’DRISCOLL SAYS Devin Toner is within his rights to feel sorry for himself following his shock omission from Joe Schmidt’s 31-man Ireland squad for the Rugby World Cup, but has advised his former Leinster team-mate to stay fit in the case of injuries in Japan.

Speaking at an event for Land Rover, for whom he’s an ambassador, the midfield great admitted he was caught by surprise upon hearing of Toner’s missing out on the plane, describing it as “quite the fall from grace” when one considers the role the 33-year-old has played over the course of Schmidt’s tenure.

O’Driscoll also maintains that Schmidt can steer Ireland in the right direction at the World Cup, citing the Kiwi’s attention to detail as cause for optimism despite a ropey build-up to the tournament.

“I think there was always going to be a big omission such is the strength in depth,” said the former Irish skipper. “I guess no one saw Devin Toner being left out.

“He’s the most capped player under Joe Schmidt, the go-to guy for big games.

“And only 10 months ago he was dominating the lineout in that big victory against the All Blacks at the Aviva Stadium. So it’s quite the fall from grace.

“And obviously Joe Schmidt sees something in Jean Kleyn, different player from Devin Toner, a big scrummager and maybe a meatier ball carrier.

But if I was Devin Toner I’d be feeling very sorry for myself, and wondering whether it was justified.

adam-beard-and-devin-toner Toner shakes hands with Adam Beard in Cardiff. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

O’Driscoll claimed players can be up front in their assessment of a coach’s decision to drop them, but cautioned against brutal honesty on Toner’s part while there remains a chance he could find himself involved as a replacement call-up in the event of an injury to one of Ireland’s other locks.

He suggested that Toner bite his lip and bide his time rather than burn bridges three weeks out from kick-off.

“I think you have to be careful with how honest you are, there’s a chance of injuries and you don’t want to alienate yourself by putting your foot in your mouth and saying something you can’t take back.

You can be honest and say, ‘I think you’ve made a bad decision’, but ultimately it’s not going to change his mind.

“So you’ve got to deal with the disappointment and stay fit because you never know what’s around the corner.”

joe-schmidt Tricks up his sleeve? Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Asked if he expected the Irish head coach to pull a few rabbits out of the hat in Japan, O’Driscoll said he was intrigued by the prospect of analysing Schmidt’s gameplans in the Far East.

The 2009 Grand Slam winner admitted that he would have liked to have seen more cohesion in Ireland’s attack during this summer’s warm-up games, but he believes there are a few more gears to both Schmidt and his charges, all of which will be revealed when the time is right.

“Undoubtedly, Joe’s got a few tricks up his sleeve,” he said.

“You would have been a bit more comfortable if you’d seen a little bit more rhythm to the team, particularly in phase plays.

“But I think some of the launch plays he’s got planned [are] some we’ll have seen in playbooks three or four years ago, others we’ll never have seen before.

“So I’m excited as an analyst to go and watch that, and see how he manipulates defences to then get them to do something that they can counter.

And that’s where he separates himself from the rest of the coaching world: the amount of footage he’s watched, and the detail that he goes through, he’s able to see patterns and put things into effect to counter opponents.

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