A surprising reason for Devin Toner’s controversial Rugby World Cup omission has been revealed in Joe Schmidt’s new autobiography.
‘Ordinary Joe’ was released today and there’s plenty of interesting nuggets of information for Irish rugby fans to mull over.
The snubbing of the giant Meath man was the standout call in Schmidt’s RWC squad and angered many Irish fans who felt uncapped South African Jean Kleyn was not deserving of the place of the Irish stalwart.
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The reason – however – was not a straight forward selection decision – at least according to Schmidt. Schmidt now says he feared that Toner was facing a potential six-week ban for a high tackle in an Ireland warm-up game.
The New Zealander writes: “We hadn’t noticed the incident at the time, but we reviewed the incident and it didn’t look good.
“We had been warned by Alain Rolland, in his presentation to us, that any shoulder-to-head contact was likely to have a starting entry point of a six-week suspension.
Joe Schmidt's newly published autobiography makes an extraordinary claim about one of Ireland's matches in Japan, while he also takes World Rugby to task on two other incidents
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 21, 2019
“It was a difficult call, but we decided to go with Tadhg Beirne, who can play both secondrow and backrow, and Jean Kleyn, the only specialist tighthead-scrummaging secondrow in the squad.”
His explanation however jars with the fact that Ireland named their World Cup Squad on September 2nd, six days earlier than the official deadline. If Toner was to be sanctioned, it would likely have happened before the deadline date.
Could Schmidt not have waited another six days and then select Toner?
Schmidt previously said the decision was an extremely difficult one.
“I’ve coached Dev for ten years, and he’s not just a lineout champion for us,” said Schmidt, speaking in a video realised by the IRFU shortly after the squad announcement. “He’s such a good player, but he’s an absolutely quality person. That was an incredibly tough conversation yesterday.
“Jean Kleyn, we probably don’t have a specialist tighthead second row, as such. And again, at the start I said about the balance we’re looking for across that squad of 31. So Jean Kleyn fitted that.
“Tadhg Beirne gives you the versatility of both the second row, and he’s teamed up with Jean Kleyn really well in Munster this year. But he also gives you the threat over the ball like a 6 or 7 would, and can play in the back row.”
His omission even prompted World Rugby’s Augustin Pichot to Tweet: “If I was Devin Toner ….. I will be asking WR for answers. I feel sorry for him; nothing against for who was properly selected for the RWC19 by the way. But feel that way.”
If I was Devin Toner ….. I will be asking WR for answers. I feel sorry for him; nothing against for who was properly selected for the RWC19 by the way. But feel that way.
— agustin pichot (@AP9_) September 2, 2019
Schmidt hit back by saying: “Considering he is involved in World Rugby, he could have a look at what the rules were and not have so many things to say because for us it is tough enough to do our job and tough enough for me to have a conversation as I did with Devin.
“With Ireland, the qualification involvement is I don’t know probably six or seven per cent. The rest are homegrown guys who are not only homegrown but who are domiciled here apart from two years when Johnny (Sexton) was used from Paris. If there was any question about the number of Irish people involved then I would be surprised when you match up those numbers.”
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