Tuesday 22 October 2019

Tony Ward: Keeping Joey Carbery on bench the root of Reds' downfall


A dejected Joey Carbery of Munster following the Guinness PRO14 Round 2 match between Glasgow Warriors and Munster at Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo by Kenny Smith/Sportsfile
A dejected Joey Carbery of Munster following the Guinness PRO14 Round 2 match between Glasgow Warriors and Munster at Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo by Kenny Smith/Sportsfile
John Cooney has made a good start to the season with Ulster. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Tony Ward

Tony Ward

For one who has been indifferent to the Celtic League, the Magners League, the Rabo and even the PRO12 in their initial stages I have to say that the first two weekends of the 2018 Guinness PRO14 have been riveting.

The conference structure is an unfortunate complication. And while I still want the 'Italian project' to succeed there are major issues surrounding the competitiveness of the Italian two.

The South African participants are not yet setting the competition alight with the Cheetahs' casual early-season involvement due to Currie Cup fixtures all but giving the two fingers to PRO14 administrators. For now the Cheetahs are a divided force.

This in turn gives an unfair advantage to Munster, Ospreys and other early PRO14 opponents.

Naturally I have an added interest through Bernard Jackman's involvement as head coach at Rodney Parade, however it is a worrying sign that a Dragons victory over the Kings is celebrated in the manner it is.

For the sake of the league and the further development of the game in the Newport-Gwent region I really hope Jackman's Dragons put it up to his former province in the RDS on Saturday.


From an Irish perspective, last weekend was an even split.

Munster were abysmal, Ulster dogged and gutsy, Connacht were in absolute control and Leinster, while still operating in low gear, were every bit as competitive as their brilliant Welsh opposition in the game of Round 2.

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In the last few years, the Warriors, Connacht, the Scarlets and Leinster have taken the final stages to another level.

I love the way Wayne Pivac and Stephen Jones go about their business. They are a joy to behold.

Much like Connacht under Pat Lam and Glasgow under Gregor Townsend, the Pivac/Jones era in Llanelli has been every bit as exhilarating as it has been successful.

Leinster's winning formula under Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster is much more pragmatic but has its spine-tingling attacking moments.

They are feeling their way at the moment but as soon as Cullen gets a more complete handle on the best combinations it will be time for the rest to take cover.

It is very early days but Connacht coach Andy Friend looks willing to tap into the Lam route to success.

He is not quite as laissez faire but he has much the same type of personnel to follow that ball-handling formula.

Jarrad Butler is already settled into John Muldoon's boots as leader through deed and word while Sean O'Brien is a Rhys Ruddock-type figure who has what it takes to get to the next level.

Bear in mind the still-to-debut Robin Copeland and the outstanding Paul Boyle have already bid the legendary Connacht captain a much quicker 'slán leat' than even the modest man himself would have wished.

Jack Carty is also beginning to fulfil his potential as a string-puller at out-half while in an even wider context, Caolin Blade, Kieran Marmion, Luke McGrath and most particularly John Cooney are upping the ante in the race to cover the maestro that is Conor Murray for the November series.


Cooney is the perfect case in point of what can be achieved when having the courage to move out of your comfort zone to pastures new.

That brings us to Munster and the horror show in Glasgow. I am not being wise in hindsight but when I saw the out-half selection for Scotstoun I thought, 'what the hell?'

Some closer to the action, whose opinions I respect, suggested it was possibly part of a game-time schedule worked out by Johann van Graan in agreement with Joe Schmidt or David Nucifora.

I listened but I find that very hard to believe.

Put simply, Joey Carbery made the move from Leinster to Munster for greater game-time to grow in confidence as first-choice out-half.

However, what is happening now is a replication of what went on at Leinster. No matter how talented he is, the guy needs playing time to develop self-belief as an out-and-out 10.

Discussing that key selection in Glasgow, the Munster head coach disappointed.

We'll put that down to his personal dissatisfaction and frustration for now but there was a hint of the 'Martin O'Neill syndrome' to the tone of his response that I didn't like.

At least there is still ample room for improvement - off and on the pitch.

Sevens success is welcome but it shouldn’t have taken so long

On Sunday, Ireland, coached by Anthony Eddy and Stan McDowell, and led by Billy Dardis, were crowned Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix champions for 2018.

It is not the World Sevens series but it is another important step towards that aspiration.

While the abbreviated form is a code in itself and unrecognisable from what went before, it is sad that it has taken this long for us to get our act together.

But better late than never.

Bear in mind, despite what some would pedal, rugby did not begin when the game turned professional in 1995.

In an Irish context, the rugby season began with the Blackrock Castle Trophy Festival in September and finished by way of the Old Belvedere 7s in April.

The Omagh 7s, Blake 7s, Kinsale 7s (a later arrival) and Heineken 7s were just some of the annual events up and running back then.

We have our history and let no one kid you otherwise.

That said, great credit must go to Eddy and David Nucifora for filling the void and particularly well done to the 12 players involved.

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