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Schmidt says worry about ban led to Toner's World Cup exclusion

The former Ireland head coach has released a book entitled Ordinary Joe.

FORMER IRELAND HEAD coach Joe Schmidt said that concerns over a potential ban for Devin Toner were central to the Leinster second row’s shock exclusion from the Ireland squad for this year’s World Cup.

The claim is included in Schmidt’s new book, Ordinary Joe, published by Penguin, which was released this morning and is on sale at €25.

new-zealand-v-ireland-2019-rugby-world-cup-quarter-final-tokyo-stadium Schmidt's new book was released today. Source: Adam Davy

The book is made up of three sections – one exploring Schmidt’s upbringing and life in New Zealand, one that goes into his coaching beliefs and values, while the third is a diary section on the 2018 Grand Slam and 2019 World Cup.

It is in the third section that Schmidt touches on the reason for Toner’s absence from the World Cup squad, which came as a major shock to supporters. The former Ireland boss highlighted a possible ban for Toner – which never transpired – relating to an incident in a warm-up fixture against Wales.

“One very tough decision was leaving Devin Toner out of the squad,” writes Schmidt.

“Dev had been late to get started in the pre-season due to an injury, but he was a known quantity for us. We had hoped that he’d solve a few lineout issues when he came on against England, but we were also realistic that one person cannot completely change something which has so many working parts.

“One issue for us was that we had been alerted that the citing commissioner was looking at an incident close to our line in the seventy-fifth minute, when Dev made shoulder contact with Rob Evans.

“We hadn’t noticed the contact at the time but we reviewed the footage and it didn’t look good. We could see that there was nothing deliberate from Dev but that his shoulder had impacted directly onto Rob Evans’s head. 

“After Scott Barrett’s red card and suspension over a shoulder charge in the Rugby Championship, we fretted that Dev would incur a similar sanction. We had been warned by Alain Rolland, in his presentation to us, that any shoulder-to-head contact was likely to have a starting point of a six-week suspension.

“It was a difficult call, but we decided to select Tadhg Beirne, who can play both second row and back row, and Jean Kleyn, the only specialist tighthead-scrummaging second-row in the squad.”

Elsewhere in his diary, Schmidt reveals his regret about not prioritising the 2019 Six Nations to a greater extent and allowing the World Cup to become too all-consuming.

Schmidt writes that a member of New Zealand’s 2007 World Cup squad, who famously exited at the quarter-final stage, contacted him to say they had made a similar mistake in building the World Cup up too much.

The ex-Ireland boss suggests that his players did not appear to be taking his warnings about Japan’s quality as seriously as he might have hoped in the lead-up to that pool game, when Ireland were stunned by the hosts’ comeback victory.

Schmidt says that he attempted to have Ireland’s pool clash with Samoa called off early due to the poor condition of the pitch in Fukuoka, Japan.

Reflecting on Ireland’s exit at the hands of New Zealand in the quarter-finals last month, Schmidt says he slept for just two hours the night after the game.

Concluding his diary, the New Zealander stresses his belief that “the margins are very fine and the repeatability of performance is key in any competition.

“Our level of performance slipped as we started to look too far ahead, and we just couldn’t step back onto the pitch and play with the same level of accuracy, cohesion and confidence.

“I think the players will build their way back from a defeat to a very good All Blacks team.”

Earlier in the book, Schmidt reveals the story of his youth in New Zealand as “the third of eight children of a district nurse and a postmaster.”

Schmidt’s mother sadly passed away the week before Ireland’s first World Cup warm-up game against Italy in August this year.

In the World Cup diary section, Schmidt writes that the first six chapters were “a joint project between my mum and me. She loved offering her recollections and opinions over the past couple of years.

“Her enthusiasm was a big part of why I chose to write it, and we laughed about many of the memories and reflections.”

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Murray Kinsella

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