Saturday 26 May 2018

O'Brien adamant Carbery will seize his golden opportunity

Blues unfazed by Sexton absence as 'driven' young deputy steps up to the plate in Saints showdown

Leinster's Sean O'Brien on Joey Carbery:
Leinster's Sean O'Brien on Joey Carbery: "He has a long way to go still, I think, to being the finished article, but he has a lot of very good attributes and he's a great lad as well." Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Growing up in full view of the world, Joey Carbery appears to take it all in his stride.

Tonight, the 21-year-old makes his 11th appearance for Leinster's first team, his 14th senior appearance as a professional rugby player.

Before the start of the season, he was one of three contenders to take over from Bordeaux-bound Ian Madigan; now he is an All Black-slayer and the province's No 10.

Johnny Sexton is first choice when fit, but so far this season Carbery has played 120 of the 160 minutes of Leinster's European campaign to date and is set to lead the backline throughout the back-to-back clashes with Northampton Saints as Sexton convalesces in Santry.

Funny

The funny thing is, there is little stress about it. Everyone knows what Sexton brings to the table, but the 31-year-old's deputy brings a different skill-set and has so far barely put a foot wrong.

"He's not as grumpy as Johnny, that's for sure," Sean O'Brien said with a wry smile yesterday.

"They're different types of players, they're different people. For a young guy he's extremely calm and composed.

"He's been very good, confident and very calm. He's directed us around well this week and in previous weeks too. He's an excellent player, he has a bit of everything.

"He has a long way to go still, I think, to being the finished article, but he has a lot of very good attributes and he's a great lad as well."

O'Brien stopped short of hailing Carbery as "the future of Leinster" like his fellow back-row Jack Conan, but he is the latest player to sign up to the admiration society.

Plenty of the credit for the out-half's rise has gone to others like Graham Henry and Joe Schmidt, but Leo Cullen deserves credit for his decision to promote the youngster this season.

At the start, the Leinster coach would not discuss the individual when asked, always bringing his fellow emerging No 10s Cathal Marsh and Ross Byrne into the equation, but he has relented in recent weeks.

Perhaps that's because of the growth he has seen in a young man who won three caps last month and looked comfortable on the international stage.

"Definitely," he said when asked if he has seen a more vocal Carbery in recent weeks.

"He works incredibly hard, Joey, first and foremost. He clearly loves the game.

"I talked to his father quite a bit recently and he said that as a kid he always wanted to be out playing, kicking the ball around and working on different parts of his game.

"He is a joy to coach, certainly, because he is so keen to learn, so keen to get better. He is very driven - it is very different sort of driven as Seany alluded too than Johnny has but they are both guys that are driven to be successful.

"Remember the gradual steps that he has got a lot of confidence from, from Clontarf in the AIL to here, came in at pre-season, acquitted himself well during those games, got a lot of confidence from early on.

"He took a couple of knocks in the first Pro12 game against Glasgow but it didn't knock him at all and he performed incredibly well post-that to the point where he made his European debut at the RDS.

"And he got a lot confidence from that day, he came into a very tough scenario against Montpellier at half-time. He is a brave player. He put his body on the line.

Growth

"The following week he's running out against the All Blacks in Chicago. He's got huge confidence from what he's done in recent weeks and months. Hopefully, we'll continue to see the level of growth."

Before the season, the prospect of Leinster facing into these two games without Sexton would have automatically seen their odds lengthen, but there is a growing faith in the Athy man's abilities.

He is bound to have bumps in the road and tonight he comes up against an experienced old pro in Stephen Myler as well as a bruising pack who will look to make his life hell.

Courtney Lawes in particular has a fondness for softening up opposition No 10s and for all that Leinster will try and protect their young play-maker, he will put himself in the firing line.

That's all part of the experience he is gaining at the top level.

Carbery has packed a lot into the first 10 games of his Leinster career but there is so much more to come.

Irish Independent

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