Jack Carty benefits from enforced lay-off while Andy Farrell ponders Ireland options
When Jack Carty received the instructions from upon high last December, he might have been forgiven for emitting the wryest of grimaces.
The big noises in IRFU issued all their World Cup men with an imprimatur that they were each liable to a non-negotiable two-week stand-down period during the festive interprovincial campaign.
Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.
From starting a World Cup game in front of an audience of multiple millions to picking up a**e splinters for his province in the PRO14, few of the bruised Irish players had suffered such a precipitous post-World Cup decline in fortunes than he.
With Conor Fitzgerald having established himself as Andy Friend's go-to No 10, so much so that Carty was shunted to No 15 in order to accommodate the in-form tyro, the Athlone man would rather have had his behind parked on a Connacht bench than on his sitting-room couch.
And yet it might turn out to be just what was required.
"It was the last thing I wanted," he says now of his hiatus, "but probably what I needed."
Depending on how great the distance between the formation of an opinion and the pronouncement of a judgment, Carty was either an unwitting fall guy for Ireland's Japanese calamity or else a defining factor in it.
Either way, it's in the past now but Carty's difficulty in trying to escape from it hasn't been helped by his inactivity, either enforced or otherwise.
Which is why getting a shift against Toulouse - perhaps mainly due to the injury sustained by his emerging rival Fitzgerald - was so important to him.
Again, it depends on how one views the world; there are those who would condemn him for a charge-down much more than hailing him for doing something similar to an opponent; of much more significance was that he rediscovered a sense of himself.
The impishness of his improvised chip up, long ago honed on the GAA fields with Roscommon under-age sides, betrayed a man who, mercifully, has not been damaged by his World Cup experience.
"I was itching to get back," the 27-year-old reported.
"'Friendy' alluded to it, that I didn't realise how mentally fatigued I was up until that point.
"Until Saturday my performances were probably a bit up and down and that was disappointing.
"So I think I probably struggled when I came back from the World Cup. So just to get that rhythm going again, the break that I had was welcome.
"Unfortunately, I would prefer to have a run of games now but probably the week after next it will be another two weeks, but I'll look forward to getting back to it then."
That's the rub, of course; the irony that, having regained his once familiar provincial role, he might have to take another break.
He will find out tomorrow what February holds - Joey Carbery's latest misfortune may have re-opened the door Farrell slammed shut late last year.
"I'm not really looking at that at the moment," is his understandable response to a prompt about a swift international recall.
"I'm trying to play as well as I can here and that's what got me to where I was last year. But up until Saturday it was a bit up and down.
"That's an outcome that will happen down the line if I can manage to string consistency back into my game again.
"I spoke to Andy before the last camp and we had a good chat. Look, I'm not going to pull the wool over my own eyes when fellas are playing week in, week out.
"I know I need to be doing the same so I suppose that's what drives you to be a better player. That's what I need to do. Play well. Week in. Week out."