Plumtree backs Toner to take fight to Australia

Forwards coach believes Leinster lock can trouble Wallabies at Aviva

Ireland’s Devin Toner is lifted by Cian Healy (left) and Jamie Heaslip (right) as Fergus McFadden looks on during the captain’s run at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Ireland’s Devin Toner is lifted by Cian Healy (left) and Jamie Heaslip (right) as Fergus McFadden looks on during the captain’s run at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA


Forwards coach John Plumtree has revealed Ireland are unleashing set-piece giant Devin Toner to dismantle Australia’s lineout in Dublin on Saturday.

Plumtree believes Australia base their attacking platform around first-phase stability, and has backed Ireland to disrupt that foundation at the Aviva Stadium.

Towering 6ft 11in Leinster lock Toner and new captain Paul O’Connell will start together for the first time in Ireland’s engine room.

O’Connell has already confirmed he will share lineout calling duties with Toner, who led the aerial set-piece in the 40-9 victory over Samoa.

And Plumtree believes Toner can stabilise Ireland’s lineout approach while also causing mayhem on Australia’s ball.

He explained: “Dev obviously enjoys winning ball, but a big part of his role is also stealing ball too.

“We’ve put him into positions where we’ve given him an opportunity to do that.

“Also restarts and kick-offs, they are really important parts of the game as well, they are extra set-pieces now.

“The last thing you want to be doing is to concede points straight after you score points, or if you do concede points you want to be able to win that restart and settle straight away. So those aspects of his game are obviously really important to us.”

Plumtree has warned 27-year-old Toner that he cannot rely on lineout prowess alone, however.

The former Natal Sharks coach has called on the eight-cap secondrow to continue to improve his ball-carrying in the loose.

Plumtree continued: “Being such a tall man his body position is important, in terms of both tackling and carrying ball. So he’s got to focus on those aspects, they are really important.

“The last thing we want is him getting held up just because he’s so tall. I’m sure big guys like that are targeted, so it’s really important that the basics of his game are really in focus as well, and he’s doing that.”

Anticipating a chasm to cross after the five-try Samoa triumph that opened the autumn international series, Plumtree said: “Australia are a side on an upward curve. We’ve got a lot of respect for this team, they are pretty hardened.

“We know how tough this match is going to be. It’s a massive step up from Samoa, and we’ll need it to be.

“Going by how the boys have prepared this week, there’s a slightly different mindset. Everything looks sharp, better than last week.”

Backing Ireland totems O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll to relish their international “twilight”, he added: “They are both very experienced players, they help out others around them.

“Paul’s been outstanding this week and so has Brian. They both look forward to this type of challenge; they are both in their twilights I guess.

“Paul will go a little longer than Brian, but they’ll both treasure these times.”

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