'Basing Joey Carbery's career on a throwaway comment from Graham Henry - that always seemed crazy to me'
Luke Fitzgerald thinks a switch to fullback could reignite Joey Carbery's career after a very tough season for club and country.
The 27-year-old was Ireland's second-choice out-half midway through the autumn internationals, but after missing the final test against Autralia through injury, Ross Byrne came in and usurped him as Johnny Sexton's understudy.
An underwhelming Christmas period for Munster saw Carbery lose his place in the Ireland Six Nations squad, and he slipped behind Jack Crowley in the Munster pecking order for the Champions Cup last 16 tie against the Sharks in Durban earlier this month.
The latest knock-back came in South Africa last weekend as Carbery was left out of the matchday squad entirely for the crucial win over the Stormers.
As to where the ex-Leinster player goes from here, Fitzgerald thinks that a shift to the 15 jersey could pay dividend.
Speaking on The Left Wing podcast, Fitzgerald brought up the beginning of Carbery's career, when a visiting Graham Henry reportedly anointed the youngster as Johnny Sexton's heir apparent in the ten jersey, and says it may have been a mistake in the long term.
"Joey Carbery is a lovely rugby player but at ten, I think he is more of a moments player rather than someone who is going to take the ball for 50% of the time you are possessing it and guide the team around the pitch," Fitzgerald said.
"I've never seen him as that player. I always felt it was one of those rubbishy things that came out of Graham Henry coming over to Leinster for three weeks. Graham Henry has forgotten more about rugby than I'll ever know but basing your whole career decisions on Graham Henry seeing you for three weeks in pre-season, and saying 'he should be your next ten', always felt like rubbish to me.
"Everyone was faffing around about a throwaway comment. That always seemed crazy to me."
One possible opportunity, according to Fitzgerald, could be a move north to Ulster. Billy Burns is their incumbent at out-half, but Fitzgerald thinks Carbery could be a starter for Ulster if he ever made the switch.
"I'm jumping a few rungs ahead but if things don't work out for him at Munster going forward, there is still an opening at Ulster for me," Fitzgerald added.
"I think Joey is a good bit better than Billy Burns. I think there are options for him if Munster continue to pick Crowley and none of the Leinster guys want to go up to Ulster. If I was him and there was a clear picture at Munster that Crowley was ahead, why wouldn't he look up north?"