Friday 23 August 2019

Neil Francis: Cool-hand Joey Carbery passing every test with top honours

Joey Carbery. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Joey Carbery. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Neil Francis

Neil Francis

Three of my all-time sporting heroes are called Joe. Joe Namath, Joe Montana and Joe DiMaggio. I shook hands with Broadway Joe Namath in a restaurant in New York years ago. You might think that someone you know has charisma until you meet someone who really has got charisma.

If Joe Schmidt wins the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, he might just end up getting onto that list. There is, though, a parallel universe when it comes to iconic players and just mere coaches but if Joe succeeds in Japan well then he makes the jump across… Charisma? Hmmm!

Any other Joes in the equation? Nope! What about Joeys? Maybe. Joey Carbery - what's in a name? There is a whole lot more going on there than just the 1,000 megawatt smile and those magician's hands.

You just couldn't really call him Joe Carbery or Joseph Carbery in much the same way that Joey Schmidt just doesn't sound right. You can't call the headmaster Joey.

The name Joey matches the persona - cool and an aura of sporting grace. It's a cool name Joey.

Joey Ramone of the Ramones, Joey Barton… ok, we'll forgo this particular avenue and get to the point.

hazard The boy has now had two major injuries in the last two seasons. It is an occupational hazard and the actual act of breaking your wrist is really unpleasant. I have broken both my wrists and the unmistakeable crack when it happens is just one of those noises you hope you never have to hear as a sports person.

If he is lucky they can have him back in contact training within six or seven weeks. Enduring the unendurable of seven weeks of publicity and marketing opportunities and the agony of rehab is without doubt the biggest pi**er at any level of sport.

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We saw snippets of what Carbery could do last Saturday. It is not now about promise or potential because he is doing great things now - but I do think that the boy was put on this planet to pass the ball.

The best passers in the world are still playing - Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett and Juan Martin Hernandez are sorcerers.

I pray that we get the chance to see the great Argentinian one more time this Saturday. He is the best of them - a pass master. Johnny 'Grumpy' Sexton and Owen Farrell can also operate in that company.

I always think the secret of passing is in the eye - seeing the ball into your team-mate's hands. All the great passers first visualise where the ball should end up and they execute second.

Carbery threw some beautiful passes out of his hands last Saturday but his pass to Darren Sweetnam for Ireland's first try was an essay in simplicity. The value of Carbery to any side he plays for is the quality of his passing.

As Ireland went through their phases in Fiji's 22, they eventually got a pod going right with Rob Herring in the middle of it.

Herring swivelled a pass behind the line and suddenly Carbery is in play. I am nearly certain that Einstein wrote a theory about players who seem to have more time and space on the ball than practically anybody else on the pitch. I think it is called E=MCarbery2.

The pod before him gives Carbery an extra half-second of space. There are no gold stars for spotting donkeys on the line.

I think the gurus call it 'heads-up rugby'. Carbery saw numbers 1, 2 and 4 in front of him and a half gap - you just let instinct take over.

Carbery checked and was gone. It is his second major great quality - his pace; speed of mind is the third element in this out-half's trinity. To stop dead and accelerate again through a gap from a standing start shows how dangerous he is.

New Zealand have really benefited from having Carter and Barrett over the years - running out-halves with pace. The midfield can drift at their peril.

Carbery was gone in a thrice and hit his straps quickly - he arced right and kept Fiji's 15 away just long enough from him before he connected with Sweetnam. This is where he earned the gold star.

When you are travelling at near to full pace on a pitch with 20st men who would be more than happy to break your ribs if they get hold of you, it can be difficult to make the right connections, before you commit somebody before the pass gets made.

Carbery made the perfect pass to Sweetnam. An 11-metre pass off his left hand straight into Sweetnam's hands without the need for the winger to deviate from his path.

The cover was coming but the quality of the pass told them all it was a wasted effort. If Sweetnam had to take the ball below his knee or reach for it or check to wait for it to come the cover would have caught him.

If a winger has to think about how to catch a poor pass, quite often he drops it.

If a winger has to react to an unexpectedly average pass, it means he might not have time to think about how to get the ball over the line or fend off a tackler.

Carbery did all the thinking for him with the perfect pass into the breadbasket - all Sweetnam had to do was touch the ball down. The quality of the pass was the difference between scoring and getting pushed into touch in goal.

Johnny can do pretty much the same thing. Sexton's pass is normally flatter and quicker - Joey's is possibly more aesthetically pleasing. When he runs, Carbery flows whereas Sexton scuttles - it is still a mightily effective scuttle.

So the kid is out for a while and we will miss his brio. I suspect Leinster will miss it even more.

Carbery was sensational against Montpellier at the RDS and recovered from a few tricky moments in Scotstoun before imposing himself on the Warriors.

Leinster will look and see that Rob Kearney and Isa Nacewa are back fit again and James Lowe has arrived - would he get a game even?

One of the things that many missed in the post-match press conference was the assertion by Joey Schmidt that they wanted to give Robbie Henshaw 15 minutes at full-back. Schmidt does everything for a reason.

Playing Henshaw at the back was not an indulgence for coach or player. Garry Ringrose will be available in the run-up to the Six Nations. Jared Payne might also be there if he can get his headache syndrome sorted.

I wouldn't even countenance moving Henshaw out of Ireland's midfield but with so much quality to fit into so few places you never know what Schmidt is thinking - even today's team sheet will be instructive.

At this moment in time, Carbery is Ireland's No 2-ranked out-half.

He has time on his hands - perhaps he can place-kick with a cast on his hand for the next seven weeks and improve on one of his few weaknesses.

He could in time become Ireland's most complete player. He is no Joe Schmoe.

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