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Joe Schmidt's belief drives Devin Toner towards great Irish leap

The lock is going into his ninth season with Leinster yet only has five caps (one start) for Ireland.

Devin Toner and Kevin McLaughlin celebrate Leinster's league win.
Devin Toner and Kevin McLaughlin celebrate Leinster's league win.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

IN A LEINSTER season beset with injuries, coach Joe Schmidt called on Devin Toner to play in the second row on 30 occasions.

While Damien Browne and Quinn Roux struggled with knocks all season, the Meath native was the reliable lock in Schmidt’s pack. However, Toner made 30 outings the season before and is the mainstay of a team that thrives on success.

Yet, for all the faith Schmidt places in him at provincial level, Toner has failed to impose his 6′ 10″ frame and game on the international scene. He was capped three times in two weeks back in 2010 and disappeared without a trace for two and a half years.

Amid an injury crisis that made Schmidt’s trouble seem piffling, then-Ireland coach Declan Kidney called upon the big man to occupy the replacements bench against Scotland and Italy. Toner, having finished his club season on a double-winning high, is hoping to show what he can do before Schmidt takes the Irish reins.

He told TheScore.ie, “My confidence is very high and I was delighted to get the two (Amlin Cup and Pro12) wins and the two medals. Everyone has their eyes on the USA game now. Everyone has moved on and we’re onto the next mission.” Toner added:

I was delighted to get the starts, coming into the tail-end of the season and to know that the coach has confidence in you, gives you a great boost.

“Our experience in finals come to the fore. Ulster did come back into it and we were frightened for a while and started giving away penalties in front of the posts… we dug back into it and worked our way back into their half.”

Toner tries to snatch an airborne Edoardo Gori. (©INPHO/James Crombie)

Toner believes that Mike McCarthy, signed from Connacht, will be a great addition to the Leinster squad. Another change around the RDS, and Leinster’s UCD base, is the arrival of head coach Matt O’Connor from Leicester.

The lock commented, “Matt met Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip and a couple of other senior players. I haven’t met him yet but I’m looking forward to meeting him when we get back for pre-season in July.”

By the time he returns, Toner will be hoping to have some meaningful game time, and impact, for his country.

“Getting a start would be massive,” he declared. “Just look at the competition for the second rows. Obviously, I have a huge opportunity with Paul O’Connell and the two Donnacha’s (Ryan and O’Callaghan) not going on tour. This is the opportunity to step up and take that slot.”

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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