Former Leinster great Malcolm O’Kelly believes second row Devin Toner has a long future ahead of him with Ireland despite being snubbed for the autumn internationals.
Paul O’Connell is set to lead Ireland against South Africa this weekend but has been struggling with a back problem while, in his absence on the summer tour to New Zealand, Dan Tuohy was paired with Donnacha Ryan with Donncha O’Callaghan supporting from the bench.
But O’Kelly, who won 92 caps for Ireland, believes Toner, who has impressed in the RaboDirect PRO12 this season, can force his way into the reckoning.
"If you see a 6' 11'' guy at 18 there wouldn't be much of him," O'Kelly told the Irish Independent.
"He has had to work very hard just to get good meat on him and he has now. He has to work on his engine too which he is doing at the minute. After that, he needs game time.
"For his size he has a good lick of pace and great hands and he is there and will always be. Whether he gets an opportunity now is up to Kidney.
"There's always going to be issues with depth in Ireland. We only have four teams. We wouldn't want to have the injury list in the second row as we do in the back row.
"But we have Devin who is really coming along and you have Leo (Cullen) who you could throw in now too."