'This is a big opportunity' - Why decision to start Jack Carty could be crucial for World Cup knockout stage
Luke Fitzgerald has no doubt that Ireland’s forwards can give Jack Carty the platform to slot in seamlessly after Joe Schmidt confirmed that the Connacht out-half will replace Johnny Sexton for Saturday's clash with Japan.
With Sexton rested after picking up a knock against Scotland last weekend, Schmidt’s big decision was whether to put in Carty or Munster’s Joey Carbery in the playmaker role. And with Carbery only just back from ankle surgery himself, the Ireland boss has capped a meteoric rise for the 27-year-old - first selected as recently as February - by giving him his first World Cup start.
"The pack is playing well and if the pack can play well you can get a bit of consistency in terms of selection there. Those guys (Carty and Carbery) will look good," Fitzgerald told The Left Wing, Independent.ie’s rugby podcast in association with Aldi.
"Remember, Johnny looks great all the time and he is unbelievable, I'm honestly his biggest fan. But he's playing in front of a pack at Leinster that are smashing teams week in, week out, even the guys they bring off the bench.
"Ireland's pack played brilliantly at the weekend so it's a great opportunity. If those guys are playing well you can keep the consistency there to play them."
With Carty a relative latecomer to international rugby, this will only be the second start of his Ireland career with his other seven caps all coming off the bench. And Fitzgerald believes it’s essential for his development that he gets the chance to dictate a game from the off rather than from the bench.
"Give them an opportunity to play, not in the last 20 minutes of a game, not when the game's over or the other team are attacking and you're holding on to a lead," he explained.
"Let them play in a big game with the full Irish pack against a team they could get on top of. Get the confidence going, get the other guys around them used to playing with them.
"We know Johnny can come back and deliver and we need him for those games. But we also need to develop people in a World Cup scenario, when the pressure is really on, who are a viable alternative.
"This is a big opportunity to do that in a game that really means a lot and this Japanese game means a huge amount."