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'Natural footballer' Carbery ready to step up whenever he's called upon -- Murray

Ireland’s scrum-half is confident the young 10 will be fit to hold his own against the best team in the world.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Sean Farrell reports from Chicago

IT’S AN EXCITING time for everyone in Ireland’s rugby squad. But for the young uncapped stars, this week is about so much more than experiencing Chicago and being immersed in American sporting history for the week.

Head coach Joe Schmidt will confirm his starting line-up this evening, but with Paddy Jackson withdrawn, Leinster out-half Joey Carbery is the one untried talent who is certain to take a place in the 23-man squad against the All Blacks.

The 21-year-old would doubtless be thrilled to play even one minute against the nation he was born in. However, international rugby offers absolutely no guarantee that Ireland will get to choose the point at which Carbery enters the Test arena — particularly if Sexton again comes in for special attention.

“To most people it would probably look like a bit of a disaster,” scrum-half Conor Murray said of a scenario where a tyro with nine senior Leinster appearances was needed to play an hour or more against one of the best teams the game has ever seen.

Murray though, has seen enough in Carbery through their few drills together to feel he’s prepared for the very highest grade.

“It would be a massive challenge for him, but watching him train he’s just a natural footballer who has a really good feel for the game.

“I was training with him in the first camp and against him in the last few days and he just runs the show really well.

“He’s a real chilled out, laid back guy and he seems to take it all in his stride. Obviously it would be a big, big challenge for him but I’d say he’d go out there almost horizontal and just play the game.”

Conor Murray with Captain Eamonn Troy and First Officer Adam Carter

For players with a little more miles on the clock than Carbery, there’s no escaping the last encounter between Ireland and New Zealand as a reference point this week. Murray sums up the mood of the group as a whole when he flickers between brushing off the 2013 match’s importance and citing it as a source of confidence that Ireland are certainly capable of beating the world champions.

Add the summer experience in South Africa and Ireland are well stocked with the knowledge that there is absolutely no room to ease off the gas.

“You’ve got to keep running, keep attacking and that’s the belief that I’d take from 2013,” says the 27-year-old.

“When we came out and played our game, I know our game is good enough to put scores up against the All Blacks – we have that.

“It’s keeping the foot on the pedal, not getting scared and closing it out. It’s about attacking and that comes from the last few years.

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“The All Blacks, South Africa and a few other games we had good leads and we failed to kick on. Maybe we thought we’d enough work done and nearly wanted the game to end, but you’ve got to keep going and keep going.”

Conor Murray Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

An added complication to the sustained intensity that will be required of Murray and team-mates, is that this fixture is Ireland’s first of the international season. The Munster man accepts there is bedding in to be done, but dismisses the notion that Ireland will be rusty in their first outing.

“I think it does make it more difficult, but we’ve opened up accounts or Test matches with good performances. Our first game against South Africa down there, it was kind of sporadic the way we were in camp; the Leinster and Connacht guys were in the final and we weren’t together as much but we just got together, got down to work and then just came up with a plan.

It’s just making sure we’re fully prepared and you worry about the effort part afterwards.”

“I know it’s been a short turnaround, but from the summer we learnt a lot about ourselves defensively. We’ve watched the clips from the summer already and ironed out a few things that we got caught out with in South Africa. I think we’re in a better place in that respect too.

“We’ve got to go out and not be intimidated, just go for it and that’s the challenge because they’re the best team in the world.”

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Sean Farrell

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