Friday 18 October 2019

'He's calm to the bone. Nothing gets under his skin'

There was nothing too flashy from Carbery against Australia, but the experience will be to Ireland’s long-term benefit

There was nothing too flashy from Carbery against Australia, but the experience will be to Ireland’s long-term benefit. Photo: Sportsfile
There was nothing too flashy from Carbery against Australia, but the experience will be to Ireland’s long-term benefit. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Whatever happens in the next two weeks in Australia, Saturday's opening Test was a significant investment in the future of Joey Carbery.

By no means did the Athy man light things up on his first big start on the international stage, but his measured performance was an encouraging start for a player who remains just 22 and has limited professional experience in his preferred position of out-half.

Certainly, the Wallabies were impressed with the Munster-bound No 10 while his team-mates have been positive about his contribution.

Sure, it wasn't perfect. One shot at goal was well off target, while his passing was not as accurate as it might have been at times, but overall the youngster's decision-making was good, while he executed well under pressure.

Everything Ireland did in Brisbane was met with ferocious resistance and Carbery knew all about it when he executed a wraparound on Jack McGrath and got smashed by Michael Hooper for his trouble.

It was reminiscent of the tackle he endured against Fiji which left him with a broken wrist, but thankfully this time he picked himself up and carried on.

Michael Cheika was effusive in his praise. "He's outstanding. He's a star," the Wallaby coach said.


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"I went up to Carbery after the game, because I've never met him before, and said, 'I love your work!' That guy, he can play footy! He's an outstanding player."

Joe Schmidt is not one to shower anyone with undue praise, but while he saw room for improvement the Ireland supremo was pleased with Carbery's overall contribution during his hour on the pitch.

While Johnny Sexton is set to come back into the team for Saturday's second Test, you sense that the coach will be happier utilising his back-up when needed after his performance in Brisbane.

"He was pretty solid, really," Schmidt said. "He came off the field at 9-8 (ahead), that's not a bad return for a young man who's really starting his first big tier-one Test match and he put a lot of work into his preparation during the week.

"He'll be disappointed that he didn't get the kick because it was a reasonably comfortable angle and that could have just given us a little bit of a comfort zone and applied a little bit more pressure to the Wallabies.

"But I thought his tackle quality was good and his distribution was generally good. He put a few guys into a little bit of space. He missed a couple of passes due to that pressure of time."

For Carbery himself, there was a quiet satisfaction in how things went despite the result ending up in Australia's favour and happiness that he came through it unscathed and available for the second Test.

"I felt it went well," he said. "Obviously it was a disappointing result but I was delighted to have got the opportunity and get some minutes under my belt.

"The missed kick was annoying but I was happy with how it went, and happy to come off injury-free.

"It was my first game not coming off injured playing No 10. Third time lucky.

"I loved it. I was obviously a bit nervous before but once the first whistle goes you've got to do your job and I love being out there and love having the opportunity to have a go really."

Since being sent in to close the win out against New Zealand in 2016, Carbery has been developing in the public eye.

His lack of recent game-time in his chosen position is a big factor in his decision to make the move to Munster, but the players are already seeing evidence that he has what it takes.

"He's very calm. He's calm to the bone," CJ Stander said of the out-half.

"I don't know if his missus puts him under pressure sometimes, but I know nothing gets under his skin that I can see anyway.

"It would be nice to see in other parts of his life that people put him under pressure, but he's never under pressure (on the pitch).

"In Chicago, when he came on to the pitch, there was no change. It was a change in personnel, but not in what we were doing and where we were going.

"From that day on, training-wise, every time he's somebody who tells me where to go, what to do; he bosses the play.

"It's something he's probably learnt from players he's played with, something he has in himself."

From a forward's perspective, there is security in seeing your playmaker bounce back from a big hit and carry on.

"He's a physical man in stature, he takes bigger knocks than me sometimes and gets up and I go, 'that's impressive'," Stander said.

"For him to do that and still perform at the end of it... he's a good player."

This week, Carbery will likely slip back into the supporting cast as Sexton resumes his role as the main man.

Injury permitting, he'll get another shot in November having gotten used to life in Munster and his display last Saturday will help ease Schmidt's mind the next time he has to do without Sexton.

He's not the finished article, but the Brisbane Test will stand to a young man on the up.

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