Carbery's return to training provides 'big lift' for Munster squad

The out-half has stepped up his training load with the province this week.

Joey Carbery during a Munster training session on Tuesday.
Joey Carbery during a Munster training session on Tuesday.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

THE LONG ROAD back might finally be hitting the home stretch for Joey Carbery. Yesterday brought the most positive update on the out-half’s ongoing injury struggles yet, with Munster scratching his name off the rehab list and chalking him in for an increased training load.

It’s another step in the right direction for the player and one which must have felt a long time coming for his head coach, who has only seen Carbery line out 17 times for Munster since arriving from Leinster in 2018.

“He is in the gym with the rest of the lads on his individual programme. He is working hard with the medical team one-on-one, so there is a lot of one-on-one time that goes into him,” said Johann van Graan, speaking during yesterday’s online press conference.

“And then, physically in the session, he is in certain sessions in the week actually training with the team, whether that be attack or defence or backs or kicking game.

“We started to firstly get his base right and now (we are) increasing the time that he is on the pitch and increasing whether it’s kicking or whether it’s actually running metres, the speed at which he runs, the volume and then the physical contact.

“So, he has got all the elements of training that he is currently going through and look, everything that he has been doing has gone really well.

“Look, mentally and physically, he is in a very good place. Like I’ve said before, Joey is a very important player for Munster and obviously for the national team as well. That’s why we got him here. And that’s why we will make sure that we look after him very well to take all the pressure off him. Once he is 100% ready to go, I’ll select (him).”

Exactly when that will be remains unclear. While Carbery’s progress is moving in the right direction, Munster will take every precaution to ease the player back in when the time is right. They are heading into a run of five straight weekends of Pro14 action, but sitting 10 points clear at the top of Conference B, there is no major rush to get him on the pitch.

Yet Carbery offers a creative spark few can match, and Van Graan noted that this latest milestone is not only a boost for the player, but also one for the squad as a whole. 

“Joey is an incredible human being. He is a very popular guy in the squad and even for the squad, it was a big lift to see him in certain parts of training. 

joey-carbery Carbery takes part in Munster training on Tuesday. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“Joey is a pro. He is obviously very excited to play rugby, but he knows once he returns, he obviously has to get back into the Munster team. We’ve got big dreams and once he is in, he is going to fight for his spot. There has been some good performances from guys in his position.

“Then he is excited to actually go and play some rugby because that’s ultimately what he is, he is a rugby player. He is really looking forward to playing some rugby when the time is right.”

A fit and firing Carbery adds real quality to Munster’s out-half stocks, which are beginning to overflow with young talent. 21-year-old Ben Healy has impressed in the senior side this season, while Jack Crowley and Jake Flannery (both 21) are also tipped for bright futures. Add in JJ Hanrahan, the current first-choice No 10, and that’s a lot of bodies competing for two spots in the matchday 23.

“The most important thing is you do your succession planning. Munster has done really well to bring through Jack Crowley, Jake Flannery and Ben Healy,” Van Graan added.

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“We have got a plan with all of those individuals. Currently, JJ is our number one fly-half. He has played really well over the last couple of weeks. You’ve got Ben Healy who has put in some phenomenal performances.

“When Joey does come back, all five know that they are fighting for two spots in the team. Some of them can play different positions, but we have got a longer term plan at Munster Rugby and we say that continuity is incredibly important.

“Specifically, the three young guys mentioned, Jack, Jake and Ben will play a huge part over the coming years for Munster Rugby.

“They have bought into the plan and that’s the most important thing, it’s the individuals all putting their weight together for the team and credit to all of them who are currently doing that.”

Munster are back in Pro14 this Saturday when they travel to play Edinburgh. Van Graan has welcomed back Craig Casey, Andrew Conway, Shane Daly and Chris Farrell to training, with all four released from Ireland camp in order to get some game time this weekend.

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Ciarán Kennedy

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