More than one Irishman has reported the day following, “I was 10 feet tall,” but that has nothing to do with rugby, or Devin Toner, the giant of a rugby player who could play a key role in the upcoming Test series decider against the Wallabies in Sydney.
He was not in the opener in Brisbane, but Ireland Coach Joe Schmidt brought him on for the second match in Melbourne, where the world’s number two side evened the series to set up Sunday’s decider.
Toner has 59 caps, but few have actually seen the top of the big man’s head. At 2.10 metres, Toner would loom large even on many a basketball court.
Playing against the Wallabies in Melbourne, he dominated the aerial contests in Ireland’s 26 – 21 win and it seems that his starting spot in the second row is a foregone conclusion.
Ireland great Jamie Heaslip knows Toner well and the “gentle giant” is an Irish fan favourite.
“He’s probably one of the most laidback men I know as well, which makes him so loveable,” Heaslip told the Fox Rugby Podcast.“The funny thing you always used to say is that Dev never gets injured, but he’s the one person that injures everybody.”
Heaslip predicted that the Wallabies would avoid kicking the ball in the direction of Toner, so to better focus on the Irish backrow and overcome that group that did so effectively hold down Wallabies’ stars David Pocock and Michael Hooper.
Despite being one of the world’s top clubs, Australia has not been kind to the Emerald Islanders, who have not won a Test series down under since 1979.
That tour was productive not only of the Test victory, but also included wins over WA, NSW, QLD and ACT. In fact, the only black mark of the visit was a loss to Sydney.
“From an Irish perspective, we’re on the brink of having our most successful season ever,” Heaslip said.