Rory Best has backed Quinn Roux to step up and grab his chance in Ireland’s second row as injured lineout leader Devin Toner was ruled out for two months following ankle surgery.
News of Toner’s absence was the latest setback to hit Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations title defence yesterday. The 32-year-old lock had already been ruled out of today’s second-round clash with Scotland in Edinburgh with Ireland needing to rebound from their humbling opening defeat at home to England last Saturday.
Toner, who also looks likely to miss Leinster’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Ulster on March 30, had limped out of the England game and been replaced by Connacht’s Roux. He is the third frontline lock to go down injured after Tadhg Beirne and Iain Henderson had been ruled out for at least the first two games of the championship.
Ireland skipper Best, speaking after his captain’s run training session at Murrayfield, said that while Toner’s loss would have a big impact, Roux, who will win his 10th cap against the Scots in a second-row partnership with James Ryan, now had a golden opportunity to make his mark.
“Look, it’s massive,” Best said of Toner’s loss. “He’s been a big part of what we’ve created here in the last while. He’s a great player.
“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.”
“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.”
Roux, a newcomer to lineout calling this season with Connacht, led the set-piece against England when he came on for Toner last week and will continue to call today with assistance from vice captain Peter O’Mahony. His Connacht team-mate Ultan Dillane is the replacement lock.
Ireland trained in windy conditions and rain at Murrayfield as Storm Erik hit Scotland’s shores yesterday, with only the recalled Sean O’Brien sitting out the session. A team spokesperson said the flanker’s non-participation was a workload matter rather than an injury concern.
“Seanie O’Brien was just managed because the guys were doing a very light session today, so no issues for tomorrow.”