Friday 24 January 2020

Andy Friend believes Jack Carty must go back to basics to face 'new challenges'

Jack Carty of Connacht kicks clear during the yesterday’s Champions Cup clash against Gloucester at Kingsholm Stadium. Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Jack Carty of Connacht kicks clear during the yesterday’s Champions Cup clash against Gloucester at Kingsholm Stadium. Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Jack Carty is struggling for form and that's a problem for Connacht and Ireland.

With Joey Carbery sidelined indefinitely and Johnny Sexton potentially out for a period with the knee injury he picked up on Saturday, the Athlone native is the only fit out-half from the World Cup squad and, thus, next in line if they miss the Six Nations opener.

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But his performance at Kingsholm yesterday summed up his post-Japan issues as he created a try for John Porch, but made a series of errors and was hauled ashore after 52 minutes.

Conor Fitzgerald has emerged as a real rival to the 26-year-old and despite an early forward pass the youngster played with confidence.

Andy Friend needs to rest Carty in the coming weeks due to his Ireland status but he admitted after the game that he is under pressure for his starting spot.

Different

And, if he's not playing for Connacht, then it opens the door for Ross Byrne, JJ Hanrahan and Billy Burns who are starting European games at the other provinces.

"Jack Carty, it's a very different situation for him this year," the coach said.

"Last year, he was the man. He was the bloke. He got himself an Irish cap, he's gone to the World Cup. He's come back and there's a young fella in Conor Fitzgerald who has stepped up.

"These are just the new challenges. For me, when Jack's going well he's built on basics, like any player - he's a hell of a footballer.

"He's got to have that belief and that trust to go back to the simple things, do the simple things well.

"He earned an Irish cap doing that. He's got to find his way. Which he will do, I'm sure."

That, however, is a tough process and there are no guarantees as Friend says he'll back Fitzgerald if he's playing better.

"It is for any young bloke. It's week to week for these young blokes. But he's a strong character. He's got a lot of resolve and no doubt he'll work that out," he said.

"When we know we've a young bloke like Conor Fitz on the bench who has been going so well, you see a bloke who is struggling a little bit... Bring the other bloke on."

Although Fitzgerald is going well, Connacht are a better team when Carty is to the forefront of their efforts and Friend acknowledged that the team are now facing an early European exit.

After they welcome Gloucester to Galway on Saturday, they take on their three provincial rivals in the PRO14 before finishing off against Toulouse and Montpellier.

And, with a growing injury list that now includes one of their standout performers in Colby Fainga'a, who is set for a spell on the sidelines after injuring his knee.

One shining light for Connacht was Ireland second-row Quinn Roux who impressed in front of Ireland assistant Simon Easterby.

"He's been brilliant," Friend said of Roux.

"He has captained the last few weeks. He is just a big and physical man and he gives a lot of energy to the team.

"The way he runs the lineout as well and I thought the set-piece was very good today.

"He's a quality footballer."

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