Analysis: How Joey Carbery is reshaping Munster's attack - and why fans should be excited by the possibilities
The sight of Joey Carbery in the red of Munster is slowly becoming more normal, and if the early signs are anything to go by, the province have finally landed a top-class out-half that they can base their game-plan around for the foreseeable future.
Most people didn't expect to see Carbery until a couple of weeks into the season, yet his inclusion for Munster's opening game against the Cheetahs was an indication of Johann van Graan and indeed Joe Schmidt's eagerness to get the 22-year-old acclimatised as quickly as possible.
In terms of dream debut scenarios, coming off the bench to finish off an already beaten South African side in front of a very welcoming Thomond Park crowd was as good as it gets.
Another impressive cameo followed in Glasgow, and while those circumstances were quite different, Carbery was a major influence in Munster's vastly improved second-half display.
Last weekend at Irish Independent Park, he was handed the reins from the start for the first time and he didn't disappoint as he lit up the occasion with a sensational individual try.
In the 121 minutes that Carbery has been on the field for so far this season, Munster have scored 10 tries without conceding any.
With a healthy 70-9 aggregate score, Carbery has contributed 15 points and hasn't missed a shot at goal (6/6).
His all-round play has been sharp, and while it hasn't been faultless, we are beginning to see the former Leinster player reshape Munster's attack.
Carbery plays the game so flat to the gain-line that his attacking threat immediately spreads panic in the opposition defence.
During pre-season, a huge emphasis was placed on improving the players' skills. Felix Jones recently spent time in New Zealand with the Hurricanes, where former Munster favourite Jason Holland is assistant coach.
Jones has spoken of how much insight he gained from the trip, especially with regard to the skill levels of the Super Rugby outfit.
Van Graan wants to play attacking rugby, and he wants his players to be comfortable on the ball, regardless of the number on their back.
Leinster have perfected that with the likes of Tadhg Furlong and Andrew Porter now as good with the ball as some of the outside backs.
Van Graan also wants playmakers in his team so we can expect Rory Scannell to be a crucial foil for Carbery this season. Scannell is an excellent pivot and when he acts as first receiver, he will take plenty of the heat off Carbery, which will allow his out-half work his magic further out the line.
Against the Cheetahs, it was interesting to note that Munster finished the game with three playmakers on the pitch - Carbery, Scannell and JJ Hanrahan. You could also make a case for Mike Haley to be included as the new arrival has shown a willingness to come into the line from deep.
In image 1, we can see the kind of shape that Carbery is bringing to Munster's attack. Stephen Archer (black circle) has just played a Furlong-esque pass out the back, which puts Carbery into space.
He immediately gets his head up and identifies the space (green) wide on the left, where Scannell (orange) and Hanrahan (yellow) link well.
Dave Kilcoyne (purple) runs a clever decoy line, while out of shot, Tommy O'Donnell and Arno Botha have held the width. Munster should have scored, but nevertheless it was a clear indication of how they were looking to cut open the Cheetahs defence.
We see a similar scenario in image 2. This time it is Botha (black) who shows nice hands in midfield which creates the space that Carbery (blue) craves.
Note the body position of the Glasgow defenders here. The second Carbery gets the ball in this position, they recognise the danger - thus spreading the aforementioned panic.
O'Donnell (orange), Darren Sweetnam (yellow) and Tadhg Beirne (purple) offer the width on this occasion, but again Munster can't finish off what was a good try-scoring position.
However, even at this early stage of the season and with the changes, it is certainly a positive that they are creating these kind of opportunities.
A second-string Ospreys side provided the ideal platform to fine-tune some of those issues before the trip to Cardiff tomorrow and next week's showdown with Leinster. Munster took full of advantage last week with Carbery the undoubted star in Cork.
His try was the kind of moment of class that he is capable of regularly producing and what was very interesting about it was the level of confidence that his team-mates had in him to score from so far out.
Carbery may only have his foot in the door but the word is that he has been very impressive in training.
Image 3 shows the scything line (green) that Carbery takes and watch Sweetnam (yellow) and Dan Goggin (orange) point the way for him to exploit the gap. Chris Cloete (purple) eventually becomes active in this move and he doesn't interfere with Carbery's instinct either as he follows his team-mates by pointing the way.
Carbery also has the tendency to pop up in the wider channels, particularly when other playmaking options are on the pitch at the same time.
One such instance occurred in the second half against the Ospreys (image 4). Again, look at the body position of the defender Tom Williams (red) as he gets caught in no man's land with Sweetnam (yellow) on Carbery's (blue) outside. This led to Botha's try as Munster and Carbery ran riot.
These may be early days in Munster's Joey Carbery era, but it's easy to see why supporters are excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.
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