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Carbery fuelled by hurt felt last year

Ireland ace insists Leinster are good enough to land double

Joey Carbery at the launch of Avonmore Protein Milk’s ‘You’ve Got This’ campaign, which will highlight the hard work, dedication and sacrifice top athletes make to reach their goals by telling the Leinster and Ireland player’s story. Photo: INPHO
Joey Carbery at the launch of Avonmore Protein Milk’s ‘You’ve Got This’ campaign, which will highlight the hard work, dedication and sacrifice top athletes make to reach their goals by telling the Leinster and Ireland player’s story. Photo: INPHO
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

If ever you wanted an insight into how the dynamic works between the younger and older players in Irish rugby, Johnny Sexton's exchange with Dan Leavy during the post-match interview offered just that.

"He reminds me a bit of Rocky Elsom, he doesn't train during the week and then turns up," Sexton laughed, while Leavy was standing alongside him.

Dan Leavy bearing the scars of battle at training yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Dan Leavy bearing the scars of battle at training yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile

While the comment was said, very much with tongue in cheek, it nevertheless seemed as if Sexton was attempting to get his point across.

After Leinster were dumped out of the Champions Cup by Clermont last year, the out-half insisted that the younger players must learn lessons about what it takes to win at that level, and when Isa Nacewa came out and echoed those sentiments, it was clear that the more elder statesmen felt that the issue needed to be addressed publicly.

There is a new breed of players in Leinster now, and it is one that probably forgets what it's like to lose a game. Drawing that fine line between confidence and complacency will be key over the coming weeks.

Leavy and Joey Carbery are part of an exclusive club in that they have never lost a game for Ireland, while James Ryan is out on his own having never been on the losing side in a professional match.

The winning mentality is rampant in Leinster right now, but in the three weeks before they host the Scarlets, you can be certain that the likes of Sexton and Nacewa will be reminding the young guns of the pain they felt in Lyon, this time last year.

"Obviously that semi-final was hugely disappointing and it was probably the first real huge game, for many of us, that we lost," Carbery admits.

"It was really disappointing, so we don't want to feel like that again. We've all taken learnings from it and hopefully being able to play finals rugby will really help us. I suppose coming off getting that taste (for winning) quite early will drive us younger guys.

"We have that experience of winning but also we know how much needs to go into it to be able to win it, so I'm hoping we all learn from it.

"I think as a group, we've all grown a lot. We've definitely got more appreciation for what it's going to take to win.

"Having lost last year, that disappointment has really made us grow more. We've got the bit between the teeth and determined to keep our preparations going.

"I think getting that taste of silverware made everyone more hungry to taste it again. The lads who were involved in the Grand Slam, to bring back that kind of winning momentum and that winning feeling, everyone was just that bit more hungry."

There is a very real possibility that Carbery et al could finish the season as a Grand Slam, Champions Cup and PRO14 winner.

A lot that can happen between now and then, but the confidence is such that Carbery believes that Leinster are capable of winning the double.

"Definitely, you've got to appreciate it but you almost have to take it week by week," he maintains.

"If you look too far ahead, you might become a bit complacent or you might get ahead of yourself. It is a great situation and I suppose if you use it to encourage you and excite you, that's a huge positive.

"We have huge confidence in what we can do. That (double) is our goal. We're in a great place to get it."

Chief amongst Carbery's personal goals is to force his way into the starting XV, but that unenviable task is made even more so by having players of the calibre of Sexton and Rob Kearney ahead of him.

For the moment at least, the versatile 22-year-old will have to make do with being an impact player, and while he would rather be in from the start, he is happy to bide his time.

"You saw Dan Carter there for Racing on the weekend, coming on and setting up a try," Carbery added.

"Especially with the physicality of the game these days, you just don't know when you are going to be chucked in and you have to be ready.

"I'm very happy to be involved in the games during the Six Nations, and I suppose the end of it made it completely worth it.

"As far as when the time comes to be number one, whether it be 10 or 15, playing week in, week out for Leinster and Ireland - that is the end goal, the main ambition.

"It is very tough to put a timeline on it. You just don't know what will happen. One injury could change it all.

"I am very ambitious. If I could be number one choice, I would be. Look, I can't be impatient. Otherwise I won't be happy. I'm pretty happy with where I am at the moment.

"People say I need more game-time. (But) the teams are winning. It's not like we're losing or not going well.

"I'm very happy to be where I am and I'm learning every day. I can't really complain with the Grand Slam medal either."

When all is said and done, it's difficult to argue with that logic.

Subscribe to The Left Wing, Independent.ie's Rugby podcast in association with Laya Healthcare, with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery for the best discussion and analysis each week. From in depth interviews with some of Irish rugby's biggest stars to unmatched insights into the provinces and the national team, The Left Wing has all your rugby needs covered.

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