Friday 22 November 2019

Toner's World Cup is now on the line

Leinster 24 Munster 9

Devin Toner of Leinster leaves the field after picking up an injury during the Guinness PRO14 semi-final against Munster at the RDS
Devin Toner of Leinster leaves the field after picking up an injury during the Guinness PRO14 semi-final against Munster at the RDS

Ah, the ongoing give and take that is the relationship between the media and the coaches.

Leinster's Leo Cullen is not one to step voluntarily into an argument unless he feels the need is there. The widespread reports of Jonathan Sexton's 'dropping' was an itch that had to be scratched.

And Cullen knows the best time to point both barrels is after a victory rather than risk the accusation of being a bad loser in defeat.

"I see some of the headlines about the selections. I think people have a bit of a nasty edge," he said.

"I don't know is that the people who write the articles or doing the headlines.

"You know we need to freshen up the group, surely people understand that. Some of the things I see, players being dropped and all this sensationalising some of the selections, I'm not a big fan of.

"I don't know who controls that, but it is what it is."


As a matter of debate, it is difficult to understand how coaches and players, whose jobs require 'a nasty edge' on the field, do not understand that journalists have a job to do too.

They have to write what they see, hear or investigate.

Leinster have to sell tickets to survive and newspapers have to sell headlines for the same purpose.

So there are two sides to every fence.

That said, there is no need to talk up the squad, if you are not going to use it.

There is also a need to look after the older bodies that need kinder treatment.

Perhaps it was no coincidence that all four changes from the Champions Cup final - Sexton, Scott Fardy, Sean O'Brien and Rob Kearney - are all on the far side of 30, with the latter two unable to convince Cullen of their fitness to play.

Anyway, Cullen has shown his trust in Ross Byrne, Rhys Ruddock, Man of the Match Josh van der Flier and Dave Kearney many times before.

Sadly, the obvious pain Devin Toner was in from an awkward fall suggests his World Cup is in jeopardy, never mind the PRO14 League final against Glasgow Warriors at Celtic Park on Saturday.

Ireland's lineout leader reacted to the incident as though there has been serious damage done to his knee ligaments.

Straight away, there will be immediate pressure on James Ryan to take control of this part of the set-piece against Glasgow Warriors.

Cullen suggested Leinster have already achieved this season in that they have made it as far as they could in Europe and the PRO14.

"The big thing is just getting to finals. You've got to just get there," he said.

"Then, it comes down to on the day. We want to be in finals. We want to win finals.

"The two competitions that we're in, ultimately we want to try and win the two competitions.

"We did that last year. We failed at the final hurdle in one of them (this year), so we don't want to fail at the final hurdle again."

What Munster would give for a place in a final - any final.

Yet again, their coach, Johann van Graan, had to speak of regret.

"The message is we will come back stronger next year." he said. "Firstly, we will review this game in the coming week. The effort and attitude I can't fault. They gave it everything out there.

"Unfortunately, we got beaten by a better team on the day."

The root of many Munster problems was indiscipline, handing Leinster easy metres.

"We did some really good things but you can't give them 13 times that they go to a lineout from a penalty.

"Then, they put you under pressure and you've got to defend in your own half against a quality team like Leinster."

Captain Peter O'Mahony cut a disconsolate figure beside van Graan, meeting the charge of an unsavoury undercurrent with typical honesty.

"What else would you expect from a derby, do you know what I mean?

"It's a derby. There's a lot at stake. It's a semi-final. I wouldn't expect anything less.

"We have no arguments."

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