Source: Naoise Culhane
JOEY CARBERY’S NATURAL reaction was to pick himself up and get on with it. Naive, maybe. Ill-advised, perhaps. Resilient and brave, for sure. But he knew, after a 120 kilogram prop in the shape of Fijian Peni Ravai had lined him up and taken man and ball, there was no playing on.
Source: Dan Sheridan
It was one blow too many at the end of a night on which he sparkled in the pivot position and the platform he craved to showcase his prodigious talents. His light frame eventually broken after an almighty physical battering.
Carrying the ball in his right hand, Carbery tried to fend the tackler off with his left but was rocked backwards and as the two players fell, the left arm, he says, ‘just went the other way.’
Instant pain, game over and an immovable wrist broken in three places.
“Yeah, 13 [Jale Vatubua] lined me up in the first half as well,” Carbery recalls. “That was a sore one. I’d say their tackler at 13 is definitely the hardest I’ve ever been hit by.
“Then in the second half I thought it was just a bang but I looked down and it was a bit flimsy so I was like ‘there’s something wrong here’”.
The grimace said it all, Carbery knew. As did Joe Schmidt.
The initial concerns were merited, surgery was required the following day to stabilise the breaks and three screws were inserted to hold the bones in place. Gone until the New Year, at least.
“I’m not too sure of the time scale because I have to get out of the cast and see how it has healed,” he says.
“So it’s depending on how well it has healed. Hopefully it is not too far after the New Year.”
The main concern is the scaphoid bone, Carbery explains, and because of the blood supply, or lack of it, there is a greater importance on ensuring that heals correctly. Right now, there isn’t much in the way of clarity and the exact timeline for his return remains unclear.
“Once I get out of this cast I am going to be in a splint,” he continues. “Then it all depends on how well it has healed so it could be another eight weeks from the day I get the cast off or it could be three weeks. We just don’t know. It’s just how it heals. I hope it’s quickly because it is pretty annoying at the moment.
“There was one bone, the scaphoid, which doesn’t get too much blood flow so that’s probably the main focus, the one they’re most worried about so that’s why I’ve got to wait and see because they just don’t know how long it will take to heal.
“It’s only a small bone but it’s quite crucial to the way the wrist moves so passing and stuff could be affected if it doesn’t heal properly. That’s why we’re kind of unsure.”
Frustration, added to by Stuart Lancaster’s comments that Carbery had been lined up for a stretch of games at 10 for Leinster over this busy, and potentially season-defining, block of fixtures, starting with Sunday’s Champions Cup clash with Exeter Chiefs.
Source: Naoise Culhane
The aim is January and Carbery is hopeful he can return in sufficient time to get a run of games under his belt before Schmidt selects his Six Nations panel, but with the medical experts erring on the side of caution, the 22-year-old is likely to be in a race against time to be fit for the championship opener against France in Paris on 3 February.
Rounds five and six of Leinster’s Champions Cup campaign are also looking unlikely at this stage. That’s all speculative calculation for now, the focus being on a laborious rehabilitation and healing process. It’s very much a waiting game.
“I would have loved to have been involved in the next two weeks playing against Exeter and stuff,” Carbery laments. “Huge two games and I would have loved to get a bit of game time at 10. I’m pretty happy with how I went against Fiji and South Africa considering how little I’ve played [at 10].
“It was good fun [against Fiji]. Darren Sweetnam’s try, I was lucky enough to get the break on the inside, it was good. It was quite an open game I felt and I thought maybe the last 20 minutes had I not got injured it would have probably opened up as everyone started to get a bit more tired.”
Missed chances. Irritation the overwhelming feeling because a broken wrist was the cruelest outcome to an evening in which Carbery lit up the Aviva. He dazzled at 10 and had the crowd purring. But that’s the sort of physical treatment which comes with the territory of being an elusive, skilful and slight player; bring the ball to the gain line and guys are waiting to hit you. It’s something he’s going have to get used to.
“I’ve experienced before, playing against the big teams, Montpellier and stuff, you’ve just kind of got to read whether they’re coming up fast or coming up slow. When you’re hit, I suppose you’ve just got to think of the next focus, ‘the next ball’ mentality, when you take a hit like that you hope that someone else will get space from it.
“You kind of get a feel then that they’re coming quite hard so you change your game to try to avoid that.”
Carbery isn’t deterred, anyway. He is made of tougher stuff than his athletic and slight frame would suggest, characteristics no doubt ingrained in him from playing underage rugby in bare feet back in New Zealand during the first 11 years of his life.
His Kiwi upbringing may also have something to do with his willingness and ability to interchange between 10 and 15, and the realisation of clear synergy between the two positions. Carbery is just as comfortable as first receiver as he is under the high ball or being in the backline. The two roles are very much interchangeable, and a recent chat with All Black legend Dan Carter further reinforced the view that double jobbing will only aid his development as a player.
“I just met him for a coffee at the Ireland-Denmark soccer game. It was pretty cool,” Carbery smiles. “I was just chatting to him briefly and then ROG [Ronan O'Gara] set us up with a coffee on the Friday before he left so it was pretty cool to meet him.
“It was more of a general chat just getting to know each other. He was talking about how to control a team and it comes in time he was saying how nervous and shy he was in his first three or four years playing.
“He said how good it was to learn from Carlos Spencer and Andrew Mehrtens cause he started off playing 12 for the first three or four years and he said playing in a different position can be a good thing cause you can learn from others so that gave me good confidence playing 15 and playing with Johnny [Sexton] and learning how to take responsibly. Probably one of the best tens ever, to hear that from him is pretty cool.”
When you hear it from someone like Dan Carter, all of the outside noise is irrelevant. The suggestions Carbery should leave Leinster to get experience and exposure at out-half has fed a debate which is likely to rage and rage. Even in absentia, he will be talked about but he doesn’t take much notice.
“I didn’t think too much of it, to be honest,” Carbery said of Eddie O’Sullivan’s recommendation that he should pack his bags and head to another province.
“The opinions that really count are in the environment. Leinster is the best environment to be learning in, behind Johnny and Rob [Kearney]. I’m learning as much as I can in Leinster as I would anywhere.”
Carbery is just happy to play, to be honest, and content to double job.
“What comes first is what’s best for Leinster,” he stresses, adamant that the eastern province is the best place for him.
“Me playing fullback when Rob’s been injured probably worked out best. I’m learning every day and a bit of competition [with Ross Byrne] makes it healthy for both of us, makes us both strive to get better and improve. We have kicking competitions here and there which also helps. Competition is great and that’s why it’s such a good environment at Leinster.
“It just depends where the team needs me. I like to split between the two but if Leinster need me at 15 for the next three or four years I am more than willing to do it.”
“His opinion is the one that really counts so if he is happy with how it is going then I’m happy.”
Joey Carbery is an ambassador for Europcar Ireland and was on hand yesterday to promote the Europcar Privilege Programme, a programme which allows motorists who rent from Europcar and subscribe to the Privilege Programme some extra conveniences and rewarding benefits.
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