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Sunday 21 April 2019

Toner loss is massive: Best

Lock ruled out for Six Nations in huge blow

GIANT ABSENCE: Ireland skipper Rory Best feels the loss of Devin Toner will be keenly felt. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
GIANT ABSENCE: Ireland skipper Rory Best feels the loss of Devin Toner will be keenly felt. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Rory Best has admitted losing Devin Toner to an ankle injury for the rest of the Six Nations is a "massive" blow to Ireland.

Leinster lock Toner has undergone ankle surgery for the issue suffered during Ireland's 32-20 loss to England last weekend and will be sidelined for two months.

The second-row has only missed six Test matches since Joe Schmidt took charge of Ireland in 2013, featuring more regularly than any other player under the Kiwi's stewardship.

Ireland's defence of their 2018 title took a hefty hit with that punishing loss to England at the Aviva, and hooker Best has admitted Toner's extended absence is another dent.

"It's massive, he's been a big part of what we've created here over the last while," said Best.

"He's a great player, and over the last 18 months, two years, he's probably played some of the best rugby of his career.

"The calmness he has is a great thing to have around the team environment. So he'll be a loss, as any great player is."

Toner is Ireland's third frontline lock injury in this tournament, with British and Irish Lion Iain Henderson missing with a finger complaint and Munster powerhouse Tadhg Beirne out with knee trouble.

Ireland's much-vaunted strength in depth at lock has taken something of hammering, though the fast-rising James Ryan remains in situ and will be partnered in Scotland today by Quinn Roux.

Connacht's Roux will share the burden of calling Ireland's lineouts at Murrayfield, whileprovincial team-mate Ultan Dillane can offer pace and power on the ball from the bench.

"When these things happen it gives an opportunity to somebody else," said Best.

"I thought Quinn Roux was great when he came on against England, he showed a lot of physicality, he's been playing very well for Connacht.

"This is a massive opportunity for him, and also a big opportunity for James Ryan to step up, and also lead in that second-row."

When asked if Ireland's second-row strength turning to an injury glut is rotten luck, Best continued: "I suppose it's better happening now, and we'll see just how much depth we have. We saw at the last World Cup what a couple of injuries can do.

"To lose three world-class players in one position is difficult, but to say 'yes we've lost three world-class players, but we've actually opened our eyes to two that were right there as well'."

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