Telling Devin the bad news was very difficult, admits boss Joe
Joe Schmidt has revealed that delivering the news that Devin Toner was not going to the World Cup was an incredibly tough conversation.
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The head coach named his 31-man squad to go to Japan yesterday, with the experienced second-row the most surprising omission.
Toner has been a stalwart in Schmidt's squad throughout his six years in charge, but with Munster's newly-qualified South African Jean Kleyn now available, he's been deemed surplus to requirements.
Schmidt had planned to sit on his squad until Sunday, but changed tack after details of the selection appeared online. Instead, he announced his squad at 1pm.
"I've coached Dev for 10 years and he's not just a line-out champion for us, he's such a good player, but he's also an absolutely quality person. That was an incredibly tough conversation," he said.
"Jean Kleyn, we don't have a specialist tighthead second-row. I said about the balance that we're looking for across that squad of 31. Jean Kleyn fitted that.
"Tadhg Beirne gives you the versatility of the second-row - and he's teamed up very well with Jean Kleyn in Munster this year - but he also gives you the threat over the ball like a six or seven, and he can play in the back-row.
"James Ryan made an immediate impression coming back into the side and Iain Henderson, who has promised so much, has performed at times incredibly well for us.
"It was a very tight decision around Dev as well."
Toner's absence is not the only big call for the coach, who went for Luke McGrath over Kieran Marmion, Chris Farrell over Will Addison and Rhys Ruddock over Jordi Murphy.
"The two scrum-halves, that was incredibly tough," he said.
"If you're going to have a guy who is the quintessential team member, Kieran Marmion is someone you'd hold up as someone who has done some fantastic stuff for us at scrum-half, but he's so versatile too and such a good man to have in the environment too.
"That was such a tough decision, again it's that balance of past performance. Conor Murray has been a world-leading scrum-half and Luke McGrath has been incredibly good this season. In competition with Kieran Marmion, that was incredibly tough.
"There will be some players who are incredibly relieved, as well as some players who are very disappointed.
"Those guys, there's not much between this group and the guys who aren't there."