No guarantees for Joey Carbery as Jack Carty or Ross Byrne set to get World Cup opportunity against England
Ireland are working on contingency plans in case Joey Carbery does not recover in time to play against Scotland in the World Cup opener and assistant coach Richie Murphy offered no assurances that the Munster star will travel to Japan if he is still struggling with his ankle injury.
The 23-year-old underwent minor surgery on the joint after suffering an injury in the opening warm-up game against Italy two weeks’ ago and is in a race to be fit for Japan.
The four-to-six week time-frame around his injury means he will miss the remaining warm-up games against England, Wales and Wales again and that has opened the door for Connacht’s Jack Carty and Leinster’s Ross Byrne to stake a claim.
And both could be involved at Twickenham this weekend after Johnny Sexton sat out training at Ireland’s Portuguese base this morning. Robbie Henshaw, Keith Earls and James Ryan were also sidelined for the session.
"Joey is doing really, really well. Obviously, the time-frame around his injury has been well-stated," skills and kicking coach Murphy said after today's session. “He's recovering really well, he's well into his recovery programme and, talking to him, he feels good and confident.
"He's exactly where the medics would expect him to be at the moment."
"He's definitely trying to get back for that first Scotland game, but it's a case of how we manage that and also manage the squad because although he is very much online for that time-frame, we also have to have contingency plans in place so we'll look at them through the next few weeks and get game-time for certain people."
Murphy was asked what the current thinking is amongst the coaches with regard to taking Carbery to Japan if he is touch and go for the opener.
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"Again, we have left that quite open at the moment and we have conversations in and around the make-up of the squad," he said.
"I've heard a lot of conversations around whether to bring three No 9s or three No 10s and how that breaks down.
"We'll make an assessment a little bit closer, we're not making assessments at the moment.
"We're just watching him, keeping a very close eye on how he's progressing. At this moment, we're very happy with where he's at but whether there's a spot for him or not will depend on other players.
"Opportunities will go to the likes of Jack and Ross as well as Johnny getting game-time over the next few weeks."
As for Sexton and the others who sat out training, Murphy said there was no long-term concerns about their fitness after a tough week in the Algarve.
"This morning Robbie Henshaw, Johnny (Sexton) sat it out with a bit of soreness, Keith Earls also sat it out," he said.
"There's no real fears about them, it's just about managing them and getting their work-load right for possibly involvement this week and, if not, the following week.
"It's a case of what we need out of these games, they're big Test matches in their own right, but we are building to something that is a bigger picture and it's about getting the mix and the balance right of the getting the proper amount of work into these guys and game-time is going to be a key aspect over the next three weeks.
"We've no fears over those three guys.
"Over the last couple of days we've been in a good place, we got here last Wednesday and worked very hard on Thursday. We gave the players a day off, came back in for a really tough session on Saturday. We'd another down day on Sunday.
"So, yesterday again we sort of ramped it up and had a good hit out with all of the squad.
"This morning was a case of managing a few guys with a bit of soreness and the rest of the squad training hard for the game on Saturday."
Last week, John Cooney was one of three players cut from the squad and Murphy said the Ulster scrum-half was unfortunate to miss out as Conor Murray, Luke McGrath and Kieran Marmion remain in camp.
"It's a decision that was based on what we've seen from the guys," he said.
“We're in a very lucky position that we have four really good scrum-halves and the feeling was that we didn't have enough time to give four guys game-time in preparation for the World Cup.
"It's unfortunate for John, he's the one that's missed out on this occasion.
"But if something was to happen and John came back in we'd be very happy, because he's a fantastic player."