Friday 19 October 2018

'He is such a naturally talented footballer, Joey' - Leo Cullen looks to Carbery ahead of RDS clash

Leinster's Joey Carbery. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Leinster's Joey Carbery. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

It has taken until the penultimate game of the regular season, but finally Joey Carbery gets the jersey he craves.

Over the course of his truncated Leinster campaign, the precocious 22-year-old has worn the No 15 and 22 shirts. Now, he has a chance to show what he can do in the No 10 shirt.

He started at ouf-half for Ireland against Fiji, but the injury he suffered in that game robbed him of any chance to stake his claim for his province.

Instead, Johnny Sexton and Ross Byrne have shared the out-half responsibility until now when Carbery runs the show against Benetton at the RDS.

He takes charge of an exciting backline that includes the returning Jordan Larmour at full-back, while Sean O'Brien is back in a pack tasked with providing clean, quick ball.

No 10 is Carbery's preferred position, but there remains some debate about where he is best deployed.

DO O’Connor, Deputy Managing Director of Laya Healthcare with Leinster head coach Leo Cullen and Jonathan Sexton at the launch of the Laya Healthcare Leinster Rugby Library in Belfield this week. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
DO O’Connor, Deputy Managing Director of Laya Healthcare with Leinster head coach Leo Cullen and Jonathan Sexton at the launch of the Laya Healthcare Leinster Rugby Library in Belfield this week. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt sees him as his back-up play-maker, but Leinster's brains trust like what he brings to the table from the No 15 shirt where he can pick his moments and complement Sexton.

His flair has long been established, but during the Six Nations he showed a steelier side to his game; a capacity to manage big matches at difficult moments.

Against England in particular he ran the show when Sexton was off the pitch and Ireland were down to 14-men with momentum against them.

Leinster coach Leo Cullen wants to see more of the same from the New Zealand-born, Athy-raised pivot.

"He is such a naturally talented footballer, Joey," Cullen said.

"It's that balance between managing the game and putting his own creative stamp on the game. Just go out and enjoy doing what he does, that's the big thing for us.

"There's enough support around him. Noel (Reid) gives good voice outside him and Rory (O'Loughlin) as well.

"Joey and Jamison (Gibson-Park) have had a good relationship from day one when Jamison arrived.

"They played together, first I think, against Bath in Donnybrook.

"Hopefully, the forwards can deliver them a good platform which makes their life a lot easier."

Carbery got the nod ahead of Adam Byrne for the No 22 shirt against Saracens and is likely to do the same next week against Scarlets given his versatility and game-changing ability.

And Cullen is seeing improvements all the time.

"(He's experienced) some really tight situations he's coming into as well, even the Saracens game, that last 15 minutes when he was on the field," explained Cullen.

"That is something he's getting better and better at all the time.

"It is just time out there on the field will make him better.

"Then, there is also the natural footballer side of his game. I'm looking forward to seeing Joey. He has trained well this week.

"We hope he goes well."

Treviso are in the midst of a revival and retain a chance of qualifying for the Champions Cup on merit if they can finish above Ulster in Conference B.

With 10 wins in their 19 games, they are a different proposition to the team that has struggled in recent years and Leinster won't take them for granted.

Cullen has made plenty of changes with next week's European semi-final in mind, but the home side still have more than enough quality to get the result and move closer to topping the Conference.

Verdict: Leinster

LEINSTER - J Larmour; F McFadden, R O'Loughlin, N Reid, B Daly; J Carbery, J Gibson-Park; J McGrath (capt), R Strauss, A Porter; R Molony, I Nagle; Jordi Murphy, S O'Brien, M Deegan. Reps: J Tracy, E Byrn e, M Bent, M Kearney, P Timmins, N McCarthy, R Byrne A Byrne.

BENETTON - J Hayward; A Bronzini, T Iannone, A Sgarbi (capt), M Ioane; T Allan, T Tebaldi; F Zani, L Bigi, S Ferrari; M Lazzaroni, A Zanni; F Ruzza, S Negri, N Manu. Reps: E Makelara, C Traore, T Pasquali, I Herbst, M Fuser, D Budd, I McKinley, T Benvenuti.

Ref - B Whitehouse (Wales).

Leinster v Benetton, 7.35, TG4

Irish Independent

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