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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Devin Toner: 'We need to have a hugely better performance this week'

Ireland's Devin Toner during a press conference. Carton House, Maynooth
Ireland's Devin Toner during a press conference. Carton House, Maynooth

Winning ugly is a damn sight more useful than losing beautiful.

The Six Nations is a quickfire series of internationals in which momentum counts for so much. Win and you're up and running. Lose and you are straight into mini-crises mode.

Or, at least, Ireland would have been, had they bitten the dust in Rome for the second time in two twists.

"Yeah, the first week hit out, I don't think anyone was massively pleased, I suppose, with the performance," said Devin Toner.

"It's just that looking back, we knocked the ball on a lot of times, we didn't hold onto the ball, we didn't really kind of get through the plays that we wanted to.

"But, obviously, we're massively pleased with the result. It's just we need to have a hugely better performance this week in order to get over the line."

And there you have it.

It is all about storing up the points and making significant improvements from match-to-match. Coach Joe Schmidt said he needed 20-30% more from Ireland against France.

Can it be done? "Yeah, I think so. I said last week that we didn't want to be caught kind of flat-footed in the first game that we didn't want to be getting into it in game three or game four.

"But we've got the first game out of the way now, I think we've got a good win and we'll be able to kick on.

"It shouldn't be a problem," he said.

What could be a problem for Ireland is the utter unpredictability of the French and how they can turn it on like a light switch.

That is what they did last March when the French side that played Ireland was unrecognisable from that which had stumbled and bumbled their way through the championship.

"To be honest, the only thing I remember is the last five minutes," the lock laughed. I remember seeing the pass - I didn't think it was a forward pass!

"I thought it was gone, and then it went to the TMO. You're hoping then for the best. Then we had the scrum which had a huge wheel and you're just waiting for a whistle. They picked and went. The rest is history."

Already, the structure the French have taken into this year's Six Nations is a step-up from last year. They are better organised, more rounded by the game management of out-half Camille Lopez.

"I think they're going to have it in their heads of how the game went last year - how we kinda stole it in the end or how they could have won it in the end.

"I think they'll have it in the back of their minds that they're going to want to come over here and do a job on us.

lesson

"So I think we're going to have to lock that down."

There was a lesson to be learned from Paris. When you have a good team down, you have to keep them down. The only place that really matters is on the scoreboard.

"We didn't close it out as good as we could. Any team wants to close games out when you are on top," said Toner.

"But to be panicky in the last few minutes is not good for anyone, not for the fans and certainly not for the team.

"It's not something you can really work on, it's hard to recreate that in training. You can't recreate it in games. So you have to roll with it when it happens.

"We improved in that respect during November. There is a lot of confidence in the squad's ability. So we are all evolving as a team."

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