'It's better to get more guys into camp' - Luke Fitzgerald on why Joe Schmidt may have opted to select Jack Carty
Jack Carty's inclusion in the Ireland Six Nations squad was the big talking point following the announcement last week, and Luke Fitzgerald thinks that Joe Schmidt was thinking about the big picture when he made the surprise decision.
Most people were expecting Byrne to continue in his role as third-choice Ireland out-half behind Johnny Sexton and Joey Carbery after being included in the squads for the summer tour and the autumn internationals. However, Schmidt instead opted to go with Connacht ten Carty, who has enjoyed the best season of his career during what has been a resurgent campaign for the western province.
Carty has yet to win an international cap, but could feature against Italy in the Six Nations - and even if he doesn't see any game-time, he will receive valuable insights into the what is required to succeed in the Irish set-up.
Speaking on The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast, Fitzgerald said that he thinks Carty's strong showing against Byrne in the PRO 14 over Christmas could have tipped the balance in his favour.
"Jack has played very well, he did very well in the head-to-head at the RDS," Fitzgerald said.
"That was a big one for him. He has been playing very well and place-kicking very well consistently. Am I surprised? I'm not but still, for me, it is going to be Ross Byrne. I think he is better. He was outstanding against Toulouse. I was delighted that he stood up in that game."
Fitzgerald thinks that Byrne is still likely to travel to the World Cup ahead of Carty, and that Joe Schmidt's reasoning behind his decision is to expose another out-half to the rigours of international rugby so that in the event of an injury, Carty is ready to step up.
"Neither Ross or Jack would be getting the lion's share of the game-time [in the Six Nations]," Fitzgerald added.
"It is good to be in camp, Ross has already been in there and I'm sure the extra bit of game-time would do him good anyway. Jack will probably be heading back to play for Connacht anyway. From Joe's perspective, it is better to get more guys into camp and I think that is what happened here. Just in case there is an injury crisis or whatever it may be, now he has another guy who has been in the set-up, who knows what's expected and has seen the standard.
"I still think he is ahead of Jack Carty to my mind because he has been exposed to bigger games more regularly. He has played a lot of Champions Cup games over the years."
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