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Pichot outlines sympathy for Toner

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'Toner should be asking World Rugby for answers' - Gus Pichot

Agustin Pichot has taken to Twitter to outline his dissapointment at the circumstances surrounding Devin Toner’s exclusion from Ireland’s World Cup squad.

Toner was the surprise omission from the 31 man squad announced by Joe Schmidt on Monday, with the Ireland head coach calling up Munster’s Jean Kleyn instead. Kleyn only became eligible for Ireland on August 8, having moved from South Africa three years ago. As a result, he has only earned two caps for Ireland before his selection to go to Japan. 

Schmidt’s decision to select someone who has only recently qualified has come under some scrutiny, as has World Rugby’s qualification ruling. Although the required residency period to qualify for a country has now increased to five years, some fans are still disappointed to see a player parachuted in at the expense of a 67-cap international. 

World Rugby vice-president Pichot was one of the most prominent voices to outlay his frustration with the decision, stating that Toner should “be asking WR [World Rugby] for answers”.

Neither Schmidt nor Kleyn can be blamed for the timing of his availability. If the 26-year-old lock is the better man, then it makes sense that he is selected, regardless of how long he has been eligible to play for Ireland. 

However, it was the performances of Kleyn in his games against Italy and England that have not convinced many Ireland fans. The lock was not necessarily poor, but may not have won over enough people to convince them that he should be selected ahead of a tried and tested veteran like Toner. 

Ireland’s lineout was woeful against England, an area of the game that Toner reigns supreme, but Kleyn offers more elsewhere on the field and brings a lot of physicality. So there is a genuine debate as to which one is better for Ireland. 

Perhaps what swayed Schmidt was the fact that James Ryan will probably start the big games alongside Tadhg Beirne or Iain Henderson, and Kleyn would provide more of a threat from the bench than Toner. But still, after his two performances so far in green, critics remain. 

This is what has been said: 

Toner is one of a few players that are unlucky to make the squad, including Kieran Marmion, Jordi Murphy and Will Addison, but it is also hard to determine who to drop in place of them. 

Unfortunately after almost ten years of international rugby, at the age of 33, this looks like it may well be the end of Toner’s Ireland career. 

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'Toner should be asking World Rugby for answers' - Gus Pichot