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Connacht hoping new system can 'empower' Jack Carty

The out-half says he has held positive discussions with Ireland head coach Andy Farrell.

Connacht out-half Jack Carty.
Connacht out-half Jack Carty.
Image: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

FEW PLAYERS HAVE been as open and as honest about their own form and development over the years as Connacht’s Jack Carty.

The out-half is well able to step back and cast a cold eye over his game, always with that ultimate goal of getting another shot in the Ireland jersey in mind.

This time last year, Carty had worked his way back into the Ireland squad but didn’t feature across the autumn internationals. He then missed out in the Six Nations and again in the summer Tests – as Andy Farrell went with Billy Burns, Harry Byrne and Joey Carbery as his three 10s for the July games.

He eventually fired Farrell a text over the summer. It took less than a minute for the Ireland head coach to respond.

They had a positive discussion about what Farrell wants to see from his 10s, and the encouraging news for Carty is that he feels Connacht’s new style of play aligns nicely with the feedback he received from the Ireland boss. 

“They’re quite similar. He (Farrell) wants his 10s playing on the axis, he wants them attacking square,” Carty explains.

Maybe previously the 10s (at Connacht), we would have set up in a way where we would have played quite a lot of shape, whereas now it’s refreshing that you are able to get your hands on the ball, attack the line, play players into holes.”

Connacht are still getting to grips with their new ‘fast, relentless, adaptable’ mantra, something which was evident as the Dragons stormed to a surprise win in Galway last weekend.

Andy Friend and his coaching team have accepted it will take some time before the right balance is struck, but when it all clicks, they hope the new system will free up Carty to do what he does best.

“We’ve been given key principles in attack that marry up to the three of them,” Carty explains, having just come in from a Connacht training session where Paul O’Connell had been casting a watchful eye.

paul-oconnell Paul O'Connell watches Connacht's training session on Tuesday. Source: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

“I suppose in terms of the relentless part, it’s speed more so in attack sense – holding onto the ball but then if we see that there is space in the backfield, we take it. 

“In terms of playing fast, that can be done through our set-pieces or through quick-taps, and I suppose it’s about getting a balance. You saw in the second half (against Dragons) Bladey got a quick-tap, and then fast in getting up off the ground.

“Then for myself I suppose it’s about working early into space, and if I work fast it enables the players outside and inside me to set earlier. So that’s the way I’ve been taking it – for me to work hard into position and I suppose that makes everyone else’s job a lot easier after that.”

A reshuffling of Connacht’s coaching ticket has also led to different conversations about how the squad try to work their way through games when on the pitch.  

“In terms of overall management of games, I think the messaging from coaches has been the clearest it’s ever been for me, and instead of it being on the 9s and 10s to manage the game, there are five or six players managing the game,” Carty continues.

It takes pressure off me and enables me to worry about other facets of the game, whether it’s attacking a ball or putting players into holes which is stuff I enjoy doing, whereas previously it would have been managing zones of the pitch.”

One of the men who has been key in implementing that new system is Pete Wilkins, who over the summer shifted from defence coach to senior coach with primary responsibility for attack.

Moments after Carty vacated the hot seat during yesterday’s press conference, Wilkins entered the chat and provided some extra context.

“He’s a great 10 to watch and he’s a great 10 to work with,” Wilkins began.

jack-carty Carty is hoping to benefit from a new attacking system at Connacht. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I think Jack has got his wonderful balance of a freedom of expression that is innate within him, but also a really keen eye for detail and making sure that the work and the preparation is there in the background.

“In that sense he’s the perfect player to work with. In terms of what we’ve tried to do with him, I guess it’s free him up in order to be able to express himself if he sees space – whether that’s to run, pass or kick.

“Empower him so that he’s not worried about choosing the wrong option, or what is perceived as the wrong option, but actually empowering him to be able to identify those opportunities and then have the confidence to take them.

So there is that empowerment aspect to it, but it’s also providing him with some really solid key principles that he knows within that chaos, within that unstructured play and within that pressure from defences, that if he does X, Y and Z then everything will be alright.

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“Listening to him speak about the significance of when he’s getting attackers around him communicating and identifying space for him, they might seem like small moments, but that information coming in from outside towards him, or in from players closer to the ruck or on the shortside of the ruck, all those guys feeding Jack information, that frees him up to play and play in the moment.

“That just can’t happen by letting Jack off the leash and saying ‘you’ve got a blank canvas,’ you’ve got to have those other players buzzing around him and setting him up for success as well as running the correct lines so that he can hit it.

“There’s a whole blend there in terms of giving him empowerment but also giving him a framework.”

Carty and Connacht have two more rounds to United Rugby Championship fixtures to negotiate – starting with this weekend’s trip to play Munster – before the attention turns to Ireland’s autumn Tests. Two more games to catch Andy Farrell’s eye. 

“I feel I have a lot to offer still,” Carty adds.

“There are a lot of things that the Irish team are trying to do in terms of their set-up in attack that marry up with what we’re trying to do. I’d like to think that that if I’m doing these things here, from speaking to Faz, that they’d be able to translate into the national team. 

“But you know yourself, you have to be playing well and winning games. So I just need to be doing that, and I’d like to think that if I am doing that I’d definitely be in (the mix) for selection.”

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Ciarán Kennedy

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