Saturday 21 September 2019

Stuart Lancaster: Joey Carbery will develop into a great Irish out-half

Joey Carbery is destined to achieve great things in Ireland jersey, according to Stuart Lancaster. Photo: Getty Images
Joey Carbery is destined to achieve great things in Ireland jersey, according to Stuart Lancaster. Photo: Getty Images
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

It is easy to say now, but Joey Carbery was being lined up for an extended run at out-half for Leinster.

Joe Schmidt has made no secret of his desire to see Carbery line out in his preferred position more often for his club and Leinster were prepared to do so over the coming weeks.

Stuart Lancaster during a Leinster rugby press conference at Leinster Rugby Headquarters in Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
Stuart Lancaster during a Leinster rugby press conference at Leinster Rugby Headquarters in Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile

The back-to-back Champions Cup games against Exeter aside, Carbery was being looked at for the number 10 jersey but a fractured arm has quickly put an end to those plans.

It's the latest setback for the 22-year-old who has had to overcome his fair share, even at this early stage of his career.

The summer tour was looked at as an ideal opportunity to enhance Carbery's experience but an ankle injury in the opening game curtailed his progress.

This latest spell on the sidelines, which is expected to go on into the new year, will be another test of his mental strength. However, if his fearless attitude in Saturday's win over Fiji is anything to go by, Carbery will be fine.

"He's brave, potentially, to a fault," Schmidt said afterwards and back at Leinster, the feelings are similar.

"He is tough mentally and he is certainly tough physically," Stuart Lancaster stressed.

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"He has the confidence and the courage to try things. That is a great asset for a player, particularly at 10.

"He will never take the easy option. He will always push himself. If he makes a mistake, he doesn't dwell on it too long which is another good quality.

"This is another window to get stronger, particularly in his lower limbs. He will be back, hopefully in the new year."

One can understand Schmidt's anxiety in wanting Carbery to get valuable game time at out-half.

While playing at full-back will do him no harm whatsoever, being called upon to control a pressurised international encounter from the No 10 pivot is a different challenge.

The Leinster and Ireland coaches know how much of a special player they have on their hands and Lancaster, who has a fine reputation of nurturing young talents, holds Carbery in a very high regard.

"We share the same desire really, to give Joey time at 10," the Leinster coach insisted.

"He played in the pre-season game against Bath at 10 and picked up a calf injury so the first two games he could have played at 10 he was injured for.

"Then we obviously go to South Africa and we've lost Rob Kearney through injury at that point.

"My view on it is, he reminds me a lot about Beauden Barrett and how he developed as a player. He was a 15 who has evolved into a 10 and I think that's what will happen with Joey.

"It is such a shame he has picked up this injury now because there are windows around the corner.

"We've got two PRO14 games, the two Exeter games and then four or five PRO14 games. There is no way that Johnny (Sexton) would have played all those. Joey would have played at 10.

"Unfortunately, the injury now means that he will miss that window. He is still very young and I'm very confident - he works on and off the field - he will develop into a great 10.

"His game has developed. There is no doubt about that. To be a complete 10, you've got to be able to play the all-court attacking game. You've got to be able to play territory and field position. You have to have top-class basics.

"Your defence, your goal-kicking, kicking for the line, all of that. In every area, he has improved. Like any young player, there are still areas to improve.

"He is only going to get better and in terms of his game at the weekend, I thought there were a lot more positives than there were things to work on.

"Yeah, he'll be disappointed with one or two of the kicks but against South Africa he came on for five minutes and nailed both those kicks. He's going to be a great player for Ireland."

Carbery was targeted by Fiji and that is also something he will have to get used to if he is to become a regular international out-half. Just ask Sexton.

However, Lancaster doesn't believe that he will have any issues with the physical side of the game, despite his luckless run of setbacks.

"Some of them are soft-tissue injuries, I don't think they are related to his size. Certainly, the one at the weekend, was an impact. That sometimes happens.

"He's definitely physically bigger since I've met him.

"When I looked at him when I first arrived, I remember thinking, 'This guy isn't that big physically.'

"He had a great pre-season and physically, he is equipped to play international rugby. He was just unlucky that he met with a big Fijian."

Sexton remains the undisputed top out-half in the country and will be for a while yet but that will only accelerate Carbery's development, according to Lancaster.

"There'll come a point when he will narrow the gap but he's narrowing the gap with probably one of the best fly-halves in the world, and in my opinion at the moment Johnny is playing the best since I've worked with him.

"I think Johnny is at the top of his game so it's not a bad chasing point, for Joey to go at is it?"

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