Ireland has a more successful lineout strike rate without Toner

Even more of a surprise is that Ireland has a bigger strike rate when Toner is not playing

England’s Courtney Lawes and Maro Itoje, and Ireland’s Devin Toner in their pre-World Cup friendly at Twickenham on August 24th. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

England’s Courtney Lawes and Maro Itoje, and Ireland’s Devin Toner in their pre-World Cup friendly at Twickenham on August 24th. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

Devin Toner’s omission from Ireland’s Rugby World Cup squad constitutes a surprise based on his contribution to the national side in a career that currently spans 67 test matches.

The 33-year-old secondrow has played 60 of the 70 Test matches in Joe Schmidt’s 6½-year tenure as head coach. Toner made his Irish debut against Samoa in 2010 and it was against the same Pacific Island opposition that the Leinster secondrow played in Schmidt’s first game in charge in November of 2013.

Since then the Meath-born forward has missed just 10 matches through injury and selection issues, and it might come as a surprise to learn that Ireland has a more successful lineout strike rate of 92 per cent (10 games) when he is not playing than the 89 per cent (60 matches) when he has started or come on as a replacement.

Specifically in the 10 Test matches in which he came on as a replacement, the Irish lineout ran at a 90 per cent strike rate, although that is skewed horribly by the travails in the recent World Cup warm-up against England at Twickenham and last November’s clash with Argentina at the Aviva stadium. In those two games the Irish coughed up 57 per cent of the overall total of 14 lineouts lost and Toner was on the pitch for just 33 minutes of 160.

Bald figures

There are a number of factors that are germane to those bald figures. In those 10 matches for which he was absent, two were World Cup warm-up matches, one was a World Cup game against Canada (2015), so the calibre of the opposition has to be considered alongside a significantly longer timeframe in the period in which he was a mainstay in the Ireland team.

His most frequent secondrow partner by some distance was former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell

There are also no figures on who won what lineouts in each match or Toner’s significant contributions in other aspects of the game. What can be vouched for is that in 13 of the 60 matches in which he played, Ireland won every lineout throw in the 80 minutes as against four in 10 when he wasn’t present.

Toner has started in 50 games under Schmidt and during that time he’s had 10 different secondrow partners. In that Samoa game in 2013 he packed down alongside Mike McCarthy and would go on to do so on three occasions in total.

His most frequent secondrow partner by some distance was former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell (17) from whom he took over as the primary lineout caller. Another Munster man, Donnacha Ryan, now at Racing 92, played alongside Toner on nine occasions, while Iain Henderson (seven), James Ryan (six), Quinn Roux (three), Dan Tuohy (two) and once each for Kieran Treadwell, Ultan Dillane and Jean Kleyn, completes the list.

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