Tuesday 20 February 2018

Comment - Mercurial Joey Carbery brings added edge to Blues' attack

Joey Carbery of Leinster during the European Rugby Champions Cup Quarter-Final match between Leinster and Wasps at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Joey Carbery of Leinster during the European Rugby Champions Cup Quarter-Final match between Leinster and Wasps at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Willie Le Roux begins to lose possession of the ball resulting in a first-half Wasps try not being awarded Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

With two experienced internationals sitting on the bench, the easy option for Leo Cullen would have been to opt for Fergus McFadden or Zane Kirchner ahead of Joey Carbery but this is a new Leinster era and one that is slowly being led by a younger crop who announced themselves on the European stage on Saturday.

Rob Kearney's knee injury is also likely to keep him out of the semi-final which means one less selection headache for Cullen but Carbery's stellar man-of-the-match display was such that it would have been extremely difficult to overlook the 21-year-old who plays as if has a couple of extra seconds on the ball than any other player on the pitch.

The Aviva was littered with explosive world-class talents yet it was Carbery and his dancing feet that stood out from the rest.

Bolter Less than a year ago, he steered Clontarf to the AIL title on the same stage and here he was back again, outperforming Kurtley Beale, Willie le Roux, Elliot Daly and Danny Cipriani. A Lions bolter? Perhaps.

Leinster and Ireland have a special talent on their hands and although they have known that for some time, the New Zealand native who has been living in Athy since the age of 12 continues to thrive in the big games.

This time last year, it would have been unfathomable to suggest that Leinster would have advanced to a Champions Cup semi-final without Jamie Heaslip and Rob Kearney. But Carbery, Jack Conan et al left Leinster supporters feeling genuinely excited about the future.

Heaslip and Kearney will play a part in that but Wasps' director of rugby Dai Young summed it up best afterwards when he said: "Sometimes you want the older heads playing. Yes, they are quality players but sometimes the youngsters bring that edge and excitement as well. I thought they both played very well. I don't think Leinster were weakened by those two players not playing."

Just like Leinster in general, Carbery is far from the finished article but the way he plays the game is the reason supporters pay their hard-earned cash.

Sure, his Kiwi blood is a major reason for his willingness to run the ball from everywhere and while it is at times high-risk stuff, when it pays off, it unlocks defences. Twenty-five carries for 200 metres is unheard of at this level. Carbery's perfectly-timed pass to put Isa Nacewa over for the opening try was exquisite while his deft handling in the build-up to Conan's score was a joy to watch.

While the review session will largely make for pleasant viewing for Carbery, he will be annoyed by his part in Christian Wade's try that threatened to spark a Wasps comeback.

Rather than play the percentages and clear his lines in the back field, Carbery opted to take on Joe Simpson but he got turned over easily and a matter of seconds later, Wade was dotting down. Such fine margins at the highest level but Carbery had already gotten plenty of joy out of a similar tactic earlier in the game which begs the question: does Cullen risk coaching that aspect out of his game.

"It's more just about understanding the context of games, where we are on the field," Cullen maintained. "It's just trying to get that balance. As they get mature they get a greater appreciation of the bigger picture and how the game unfolds."


But the how does the player himself recompose himself after making such a costly error?

"You've just got to move on because if you let it affect you the rest of your performance is going to go down, it's not going to go well so you've got to be next-play-focused," Carbery insisted.

Having a second receiver adds another dynamic to the attack - see Jared Payne against England recently - and Carbery plays that role to great effect.

He will have to wait a while yet before he takes over the number 10 jersey but for now at least, the mercurial Carbery has found a temporary home at full-back.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport