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Casey forming a halfback bond with the 'class' Carbery in Munster

The 22-year-old scrum-half is part of Ireland’s squad for the November Tests.

Casey has started three games for Munster so far this season.
Casey has started three games for Munster so far this season.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

LAST SUNDAY MORNING, Craig Casey had the bragging rights when he met his uncle, Mossy Lawler, and his cousin, Colm Tucker, at an underage Shannon RFC match. 

Casey and Munster had beaten Connacht, where Lawler and Tucker are now part of the senior coaching staff, at Thomond Park the night before.

“Their kids were playing their first-ever games for Shannon so I was out watching them, so it was great to get the win over them and being able to slag them,” says Casey with a smile.

There is plenty of reason for the 22-year-old scrum-half to be happy these days. He’s back in the Ireland squad for the upcoming November Tests against Japan, New Zealand, and Argentina, having started the season well with Munster.

Ever the perfectionist, Casey says he can pick out plenty of areas of his game that he hasn’t been content with in recent weeks but there has been much to like too.

He has offered a threat around the fringes of rucks and scrums for Munster, scoring a try against the Sharks and then flicking a delightful blind pass back inside for Andrew Conway last weekend against Connacht.

“Definitely during the pre-season, I tried to put an onus on my running game as well as my passing game,” says Casey, who already has three Ireland caps to his name.

“Then with Bomber [Conway], I worked on that with him over the last few weeks, something that he’s always chirping on about – be on my inside, be on my outside, just show the space and, in fairness, he saw the gap around the ruck and I was able to take the first defender and then let him do the rest.”

craig-casey Casey is part of Ireland's squad for the November Tests. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

With Conor Murray’s return this season delayed by having been involved with the Lions during the summer, Casey has enjoyed three starts for Munster against the Sharks, Stormers, and Connacht. 

He has been alongside Joey Carbery in the halfback pairing for all of those games and is enjoying working with the 25-year-old Athy man.

“I think he is a class, to be honest,” says Casey of Carbery. “Even in the summer, I got to play with him [for Ireland] against the USA and that was brilliant.

“I’ve had the three games here with him so definitely forming a bond with him off the field as well as on the field. That’s the main part probably.

“Obviously, I wouldn’t have known him too well before he came down to Munster, then when he did come down I was injured for the first year so didn’t get to play with him too much. Yeah, it’s been great playing with him, I think he’s class.”

Many out-halves have a reputation as being cranky when they aren’t given the kind of service they want and Casey says Carbery certainly can fire off a few choice words, but he also highlights how the out-half uses positive reinforcement. 

“He’ll definitely let me know when I have done something wrong and he’ll definitely let me know when I’ve done something right as well. He’s very good for that.

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“If you’ve done something right, it’s the positive attitude that he comes with and ‘keep doing that’, keeps you on the front foot and he’ll never get in a shouting match with you… I don’t think! If you’re wrong, you’re wrong, he’ll let you know that as well.”

joey-carbery-celebrates-with-craig-casey Carbery and Casey playing for Ireland back in June. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Of course, Ben Healy is pushing for starts at out-half in Munster too, while Jack Crowley and Jake Flannery are also part of the depth chart in the position.

Casey says all of the 10 options are demanding of those around them.

“The four of them are brilliant players,” says Casey. “I’ve played with all of them obviously, up the age groups as well.

“They all buy into the system that we play, they all kind of know that well and demand that they get the ball in the right areas, that I box-kick well when we need to, and that when I need to give them quick ball, I give them the ball when I need to. They are fairly demanding on that as well.

“I think they all have a voice as well the squad, everyone respects that and they are really good players.”

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Murray Kinsella

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