Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby Six Nations

Ireland v Italy: Stand up and be counted, Toner urges Six Nations squad

By Jonathan Bradley

With Ireland entering today's Six Nations contest against Italy having failed to win any of their last four games, Devin Toner admits there is one unavoidable conclusion - victory is the minimum requirement.

Having not gone five without a win since 2012, the Leinster lock said: "At this stage, it's results for us. We can go on and on about how well we played in the last three games but the results obviously don't paint a good picture.

"We've got to front up. Joe (Schmidt) said there have been elements where we've played well but a huge thing for us is consistency.

"We want to keep it going for 80 minutes. There's pressure for every game but this one, we have to win."

With Toner calling Ireland's line-out since the retirement of Paul O'Connell after the World Cup, the set-piece has not been at its best.

Against England at Twickenham, the Red Rose locks Maro Itoje and George Kruis disrupted the pack out of touch with Toner feeling Ireland will need to better execute their pre-game plan.

"For every game you have different plans," said the 6-foot-11 lock. "That's kind of a personal trait of Itoje and we did say beforehand, Rory Best mentioned that he'd disrupted them (Ulster) when they played Saracens.

"It's more being aware of the personal traits of different players. I think with hookers as well as callers, if you lose a lineout it always eats at you. We know we're a good line-out, we have good processes so we're just looking to move on."

With Sergio Parisse's influence over the Italian side still as strong as ever - he wins his 118th cap today - Toner admits that halting the rampaging 32-year-old is key to victory.

"He's been a talisman for them for 10 years. You don't win that many caps for no reason. He's one of the best things about their team to be honest," he said.

"When he plays well Italy play well. When he doesn't, they don't."

Parisse says Italy must start strongly if they are to get a first win in Dublin since 1997.

"We cannot afford in the opening of the game to give Ireland the same easy points that we gave to the Scots," he said.

"We conceded two tries from our mistakes in the first quarter, and we have not always secured points when we've had a chance."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph