Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations title defence suffered another setback today when second row and lineout leader Devin Toner was ruled out for two months following ankle surgery.
Toner, 32, also looks likely to miss Leinster’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Ulster on March 30 after the IRFU confirmed that the forward had required an operation having limped out of Ireland’s defeat at home to England last Saturday.
Ireland captain Rory Best said during his captain’s run press conference at Murrayfield on Friday afternoon that Toner’s loss was a considerable blow to his team but his replacement Quinn Roux, who will win his 10th cap on Saturday against Scotland, now had a chance to step up and take the opportunity presented.
"Look, it's massive. He's been a big part of what we've created here in the last while. He's a great player,” Best said of Toner.
"I would say over the last 18 months, two years he's probably played some of the best rugby of his career. So, to lose a player like that and the intellectual property he brings around the lineout as well as the calmness he has it's just great to have around the team environment.
"He'll be a loss, as any great player is, but when these things happen it gives an opportunity to somebody else.
"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 for James Ryan to step up and lead in that second-row."
Toner’s loss represents the third lock to be injured in the last month after Munster’s Tadhg Beirne and Ulster’s Iain Henderson were ruled out for the first two rounds of the championship but, again, Best searched for the positives.
“I suppose it's better happening now and we'll see just exactly how much depth we'll have. We saw at the last World Cup what a couple of injuries can do. We need to look at the layer below that, you even look at Ultan Dillane on the bench, when he's been involved he's been fantastic for us. It's unfortunate for the three boys. To lose three world class players in one position is difficult but what an opportunity for the two boys to come in and show what they're about.
“We've lost three world-class players but we've opened our eyes to two that we're right there as well. What depth we'll have then, we'll not just have four but we'll have six.”
Ireland trained in windy conditions and rain at Murrayfield on Friday, 24 hours out from their second-round clash with only the recalled Sean O’Brien sitting out the session.
A team spokesperson said: “Seanie O'Brien was just managed because the guys were doing a very light session today, so no issues for tomorrow.”