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Toner: I face huge battle to hold off Iain Henderson

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 02/09/2015

Strong competition: Devin Toner and Iain Henderson will fight with each other for a place in the Ireland starting line-up
Strong competition: Devin Toner and Iain Henderson will fight with each other for a place in the Ireland starting line-up

After Iain Henderson's barnstorming performance against Wales at the Aviva Stadium last weekend, Devin Toner knows he is in for a battle to hold onto his place in Ireland's starting line-up.

Toner has been a huge contributor for Joe Schmidt over the past two seasons, taking his place alongside Paul O'Connell in Ireland's engine room, but the towering lock is aware that Henderson and Donnacha Ryan are breathing down his neck.

"I've said before that the competition is massive for places," he reiterated at Carton House yesterday. "Obviously Hendy had a pretty good game (last weekend) and he took his try very well.

"Donnacha did well in that first game against Wales and when he came off the bench. Obviously there's Paulie as well so if I get selected I'm going to have a big job to do."

Always virtually guaranteed to be included in the 31-man World Cup squad, Toner admitted that he still experienced anxiety waiting for the confirmation on Sunday.

"It was a bit nerve-wracking," he said. "On Sunday waiting for the email to come in, I refreshed it about 50 times, but once it came through I was delighted."

The 26-times capped County Meath man did, however, feel sympathy for excluded Ulsterman Andrew Trimble.

"You feel for the guys who miss out," he said. "Not just for their playing ability but lads who you're friends with and know you get on with.

"I feel for Trimby. I get on very well with him."

With the selection of the travelling party now in the past, Toner is keen to move forward, especially with a warm-up Test with England to come on Saturday afternoon.

"It was great but it's subsided now," he added. "It's back to the grindstone and focusing on England."

While Toner did not feature against Wales last Saturday, he thinks a vast improvement on the discipline front will be vital after Ireland gave away 15 penalties during the contest with Warren Gatland's men.

"I think the main thing that hurt was our discipline," he said.

"The amount of penalties we gave away was not to the standard that we hold ourselves to. That's one of the main things that we're going to try to rectify this week."

Should Toner be restored to the second-row on Saturday, he could be joined in the pack by his Leinster team-mate Cian Healy.

The influential loosehead has not played since last season thanks to a neck injury but has been given the go-ahead to play at Twickenham. Keith Earls will not feature however as he undergoes the return to play protocols after his concussion last week.

England have selected Brad Barritt and Jonathan Joseph as their centre pairing for Saturday's World Cup warm-up game against Ireland at Twickenham.

It will be the first time Barritt and Joseph have started together, though they formed makeshift midfields through Tests against New Zealand and Australia.

England: M Brown (Harlequins); A Watson (Bath), J Joseph (Bath), B Barritt (Saracens), J May (Gloucester); G Ford (Bath), B Youngs (Leicester); J Marler (Harlequins), T Youngs (Leicester), D Cole (Leicester), C Lawes (Northampton), G Parling (Exeter), T Wood (Northampton), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Morgan (Gloucester).

Replacements: J George (Saracens), M Vunipola (Saracens), K Brookes (Northampton), J Launchbury (Wasps), B Vunipola (Saracens), R Wigglesworth (Saracens), O Farrell (Saracens), S Burgess (Bath).

Belfast Telegraph

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