Monday 21 January 2019

Neil Francis: Joey Carbery move to Munster won't prevent repeat of 2015 World Cup issue

Entire episode could end up shutting the Leinster door on this talented No 10 for good

Joey Carbery during Ireland rugby squad training at Royal Pines Resort in Queensland
Joey Carbery during Ireland rugby squad training at Royal Pines Resort in Queensland
Joey Carbery speaks with Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt ahead of Ireland’s first Test against Australia on Saturday. Photo: Sportsfile
Neil Francis

Neil Francis

There is a line from the sitcom 'Friends' out there about the most unpopular transfer news on this island. It goes, "don't worry, we are going to be like Rachel. Better off with Ross than Joey."

I wouldn't necessarily agree with the line of reasoning here.

Let's remind ourselves of some facts. Joey Carbery was injured for most of last season and Ross Byrne slotted in and played very well.

He got more time than expected because Johnny Sexton only played in three PRO14 games before the knock-out stages. Byrne is solid if not spectacular. Carbery is spectacular if not sensational. There is nothing he cannot do really well. That includes all forms of game management through to defence.

Sexton gets to play as much international rugby as he wants to on three PRO14 games a season because of who he is, but Carbery can't - who does this discommode?

The conventional and unthinking view is that you couldn't have a situation like the last World Cup where you had to call on Ian Madigan who played most of his rugby that season in the centre or at full-back. Why doesn't anyone question this line of reasoning?

Ireland won't be caught cold again if Sexton gets injured in Japan and his replacement has been sitting on the bench or is engaged in cameo roles - because his understudy will now get match time for Munster. Let's think about that.

The reason Ireland lost to Argentina in 2015 was because they lost their top four players in the previous match - Paul O'Connell, Sean O'Brien, Peter O'Mahony and Sexton.

Your leaders, your Lions, your world-class players. You are holed below the water line if you lose all of them in their prime in just one match.

Ireland really missed their galacticos in the quarter-final. They played well below what was expected and Argentina were very good on the day and throughout the tournament and won easily in Cardiff.

Pointing a finger at Madigan for Ireland's exit and stating he didn't have enough time to play at out-half is plausible until you remember the vital final pool game against France in the Millennium Stadium.

Sexton had to go off after 25 minutes, Madigan came on and had a sensational game. He took advantage of Ireland's forward play and guided Joe Schmidt's side to a 24-9 victory.

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Who can forget the tears streaming down his cheeks and thumbs up to his parents in the crowd - he had done it and done it when he needed to do it most - at the World Cup. It was a career-defining moment.

It was his best game at international level. Madigan was lauded for his performance from all quarters.

Three years later the view is that Ireland could be caught cold if the understudy out-half doesn't have enough game-time.

Sensational against France, not so good against Argentina a week later - and a lack of PRO14 match time was the cause of it?

How do we let the IRFU people peddle these lines?

It was like a death in the family when the news finally broke during the week. The jewel in the Academy crown was being shipped off to Munster against the wishes of the whole of Leinster.

We did not need Graham Henry to tell us how good he is - we already knew when he played at schools level.

Munster may grumble that there are enough Leinster players in their roster but they will enjoy the fact that though they may not be able to use him properly, they still get to deny Leinster access to his abilities.

I suspect Munster would rather surgically cut the hamstrings from their best player than hand him over to Leinster if Schmidt demanded that had to be done.

The golden goose is the national team - that pays all the bills - but if inter-provincial rivalry is genuine and to be cultivated this practice has to stop.

A two-year deal means nothing. The hope that Carbery returns can never be assured. The world moves on.

The worst career move in the world was undertaken by Marty Moore in his decamp to Wasps.

No game time, no Dai Young propping experience, no Irish place anymore and now no way back.

Moore was seen as the replacement in Leinster and Ireland for Mike Ross.

He ended up in Wasps on a fruitless sojourn and now he can't even get back to Leinster because the crew there managed to unearth a Lions Test prop that turned out to be the best prop in the world and an understudy who would get on most other teams and will keep Furlong honest and fresh.

When you leave, it is effectively for good. This has been an unsavoury and unnecessary episode which I will revert to at a later time.

What will Joey do in Australia? How many starts will he get? Will Ross Byrne get a run?

The three-Test series starts on Saturday and given the year Ireland have had, well, bring it on - a 3-0 win to Ireland.

I think Australia will be more than a handful and I think they have the talent to be able to outdo Ireland.

We talk about all the great new talent that Ireland have brought through from their academies.

Despite evidence to the contrary Australia are still producing real quality in all areas of the park - some of that talent has been pilfered though.

There is still resentment about England picking Brad Shields direct from New Zealand and there was quite a kerfuffle when Australia picked Peter Samu out of the Crusaders in New Zealand straight into the Australian squad.

Samu is one of these people who you gang tackle and 10 metres later he is still travelling.

The 26-year-old has incredible technique when travelling with the ball - he lunges into the tackle and stays on his feet and bounces tacklers out of the way.

He has phenomenal pace, is a prolific try-scorer and just seems to be on the ball all of the time.

Let it be said one more time that Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander have not played even close to the standards that we expect from them this season and if there isn't a marked improvement from them and Ireland play second fiddle in the contact area and around the breakdown, then they will lose the series.

Then, of course, we must consider the threat of Israel Folau. Despite his off-field problems, he is having a career-best season and his high fielding is absolutely impeccable. We might have to throw the ball around in this series.

The first Test is vital and it will be who gets over the jetlag (Ireland) and cobwebs (Australia) best that decides it.

A compelling series is in prospect. Ireland must win on Saturday to have a chance in the series.

Irish Independent

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