Sunday 16 June 2019

'I haven't been as excited as this in a while' - Ronan O'Gara backs Carbery to make the difference for Munster

9 June 2018; Joey Carbery of Ireland during the 2018 Mitsubishi Estate Ireland Series 1st Test match between Australia and Ireland at Suncorp Stadium, in Brisbane, Australia. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
9 June 2018; Joey Carbery of Ireland during the 2018 Mitsubishi Estate Ireland Series 1st Test match between Australia and Ireland at Suncorp Stadium, in Brisbane, Australia. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

When Joey Carbery pitched up in Munster for the first time, his new colleagues weren't long in adopting him with a sobriquet that was at once intimate and intimidating: ROG.

Carbery has enough of a burden as it is, one would suspect, without labelling him as a potential heir to the province's double European Cup winner, one of their greatest of all time.

"Ah sure, that's a compliment," grins the one and only.

Ronan O'Gara, fresh from helping Crusaders win their second successive Super Rugby title - the Corkman now, uniquely has coached two title winners in either hemisphere - does admit though that the latest attempt by his former club to fill his inestimable boots excites him immensely.

"It's brilliant," he says. "I haven't been as excited about it as this in a while. I got a great buzz out of it because it's Munster.

"Everyone backs Leinster because they're from Leinster, I back Munster because they're the team I like. I think I could have been in Cork that day it was announced, and there was a big buzz. It's big, you know?"

Munster haven't exactly been unveiling mammoth summer signings of late.

"Well, exactly. If I think what's most exciting, it's his age profile. He's only going to get better. The guy has a good attitude."

O'Gara insists he takes little credit for and bore no influence over the transfer but he does expect Carbery now to step up and deliver amidst his new garb. And, even if the resident tens - from Ian Keatley and JJ Hanrahan to Tyler Bleyendaal and Bill Johnston - might appear miffed at the sudden interloper, it is also up to them to respond to the challenge, too.

"You've seen some of the images where he glides and he can change a game. It's a great attribute to have.

"But he needs to get better at his game management and that would be great for Munster because to earn the respect of the very knowledgeable Munster crowd, he'll want to know how to manage a game, won't he?

"Like, he's going to get more and more marked as well, so maybe the break isn't for him but he plays on the line so he can play inside or outside, or he can go through a hole.

"You see that try against Fiji last year, no other back could really have done that.

"I think it could make a massive difference for Munster, I genuinely do. They're not far away.

"They have a few strategic decisions maybe to make in terms of how they want to play the game, to suit Keith Earls and people like that, but it will be a very natural game to Joey because Conor Murray can do a lot of the kicking.

"And I don't know how good Joey's kicking game is because we haven't seen enough of him in the jersey to see, in winter rugby, can he play that game, because he's going to have to play it.

"I know it's a possession game but Munster can't neglect their strengths, either, which is they have a good pack of forwards but they need to add to that."

And the newly-installed understudies will have to add to their game, too.

"It's a very difficult one for the others. I would think that Tyler is a different case, because he's been injured.

"I think the opportunities probably were presented to Keats and JJ and none of them have grabbed it so they have to come back hard if they want, I would say, at best to back up Joey.

"But I think what's important is the fact that people have recognised that Joey is a very good player, so he's going to get time in the jersey. And you get better, the more time you get in the number 10 jersey for Munster.

"So he needs to play games. If I was coach, it's probably his to lose now because you have to give him the chance to grow, because he's proven for Leinster and Ireland, and the kid can play.

"The outside expectation won't be as great as the internal demands he puts on himself.

"The great thing about it is by Joey going well, Johnny Sexton will go better. That's how it works because it's just natural. As insane a competitor as Johnny is, there's going to be a time when there will be an overlap. There was in Johnny and my case. And the exuberance of youth will win, whether that will be two years' or four years' time."

For Munster, as ever, the demands will be immediate.

"The teams that have won the Champions Cup, it is an impressive list of out-halves that have been on those winning teams.

"The key point is you need a very, very good ten, great ten even, to win a European Cup. It is too early to say that about Joey Carbery.

"But the potential is there."

Irish Independent

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