FORMER Castleknock College student Devin Toner admitted winning the 6 Nations was “a pretty cool feeling” as he played a huge part in Ireland’s success over the last two months.
The towering lock played in all bar seven minutes of the campaign, a break-out season in the competition for him, having played only bit-parts since making his debut back in 2010.
It is a measure of the trust Joe Schmidt has in Toner who he previously coached with Leinster and, in a tournament marked by an effective line-out and maul, he played a strong role in their overall success.
Speaking after the game, he likened the victory over France in a title showdown to Heineken Cup finals from the past few seasons.
“Yeah, it was a grand final to us – winner takes all,” Toner said. “I’ve been lucky enough to play in a couple of finals so we kind of knew what to do, I suppose and try to keep the emotions in check.
“It’s not very different to be honest, but on a bigger scale it’s pretty cool because you’re not just with your Leinster teammates, you’re with all of your Ireland teammates. It’s a pretty cool feeling alright.”
The win is Toner’s first in this competition and while he says the “satisfaction will linger”, he adds that there is precious little time before the next major challenge arrives, namely Leinster’s date with Munster on March 29.
“Guys have to get ready for the next one, I suppose, and it won’t be very long before we are getting ready for Munster in the Aviva so it’s obviously just quick, quick, quick.”
Focusing on his own growth into a first team regular, the 27-year-old is delighted to have made the big step forward and also to last full games despite the usual high rate of attrition in the pack.
“Yeah, just getting the starts and getting to play well is obviously good. I’m well happy at the moment to be honest.
“The more 80 minutes you play, the more you’re used to it. As a team, we know our fitness is second to none. I think that really stood to us over the tournament, kind of grinding teams down to get the wins.
“Being able to play will always stand to you as well. When I saw Iain Henderson coming on for Peter O’Mahony, I thought ‘that’s another 80 minutes for me, so that’s grand!’”