Tuesday 20 March 2018

Joey Carbery or Paddy Jackson? Coach reveals decision still up in the air

Joey Carbery and Paddy Jackson
Joey Carbery and Paddy Jackson
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Ireland skills coach Richie Murphy has insisted that Paddy Jackson is not guaranteed to return to the bench on Saturday as Joey Carbery seeks to keep hold of the No 22 jersey for the second successive game.

Jackson missed the historic win over New Zealand in Chicago due to personal reasons but returned to the starting XV against Canada last weekend and put in an assured performance in which he kicked all six of his goals.

Carbery on the other hand was given another chance to impress off the bench and just like he did against New Zealand, he added another dimension to Ireland’s attack.

The concern however remains over the 21-year old’s goal-kicking. Carbery missed a kick in Solider Field and was off target with two conversions against the Canadians. While none of his misses proved costly, it may well be a different story this weekend against a fired up All Blacks side.

Just last week, Joe Schmidt spoke of the “investment” that he and his coaching staff put into Jackson when Sexton missed the summer tour of South Africa and for many it would have seemed like a given that he would return to the bench on Saturday.

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Murphy however admitted that it was not as straightforward as Carbery has been pushing hard in training as well as the fact that Conor Murray has been spending a lot of time practicing his own goal-kicking.

“It’s not a given, no,” Murphy said.

“Joey has obviously come in and done really well. He was brought into a situation in Chicago which probably a little bit sooner than we would have liked but he just proved what a class player he is and what a level headed type of person he is.

“He just fitted in seamlessly and brought the guys forward again. Going on there with 20 minutes to go when the game was in the balance was a big challenge for him and he came on the other side of it really well.”

Murphy also credited Murray for the character he showed to assume take kicking responsibilities when Sexton was forced off in Chicago.

“He’s been working away on his goal-kicking for a while now. I think anyone who ever turns up to the game early will see him out there kicking goals.

“He’s a very accomplished goal kicker but it was a once off that week (Chicago) because he hadn’t actually kicked that week. He was carrying a little bit of muscle. For him to step up and knock one over was brilliant for us.

Sexton trained fully last week and will do so again this week as he is set to return to the side. It would appear that Jackson is the front runner to return as second-choice but Carbery is certainly keeping the pressure on the Ulster No 10.

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