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Connacht's Jack Carty has the tools to break back into the Ireland mix

The 27-year-old out-half had his struggles post-World Cup but remains a classy operator.

Updated Aug 4th 2020, 8:03 PM

WITH THE MATCH clock reading 22:50 at the Ecopa Stadium in Shizuoka on 28 September last year, things couldn’t have been going much better for Jack Carty. 

The Connacht out-half had just followed up a successful conversion with a pinpoint cross-field kick inside his own half to Keith Earls that sent Ireland racing upfield again, already with a 12-3 lead against hosts Japan.

Wearing the number 10 shirt for Ireland for just the second time, Carty had made a superb start to the biggest game of his career.

irelands-jack-carty-is-tackled-by-wales-ryan-elias Carty was won 10 caps for Ireland. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

His cross-field assist for Garry Ringrose got Ireland up and running, while Carty also chipped ahead and then batted the ball down to Rob Kearney for the second Irish try.

But just less than a minute after Carty’s accurate kick to Earls, Ireland were incorrectly adjudged to have knocked the ball on and, via a scrum penalty, Japan started to seize the momentum that would carry them to a stunning 19-12 victory.

That opening quarter was to be the peak of things for Carty at last year’s World Cup, although he came off the bench for Johnny Sexton at half-time in the win, again showing his attacking kicking ability with a clever chip that allowed Earls to tee up an Andrew Conway try.

Carty had played the final quarter of Ireland’s opening pool win over Scotland – where a clever dink ahead for Chris Farrell to regather was a highlight – but his appearance versus Russia was his last outing on the pitch as Joey Carbery backed-up Sexton for Ireland’s final two games of a disappointing tournament.

27-year-old Carty would have hoped to return from Japan to make a telling impact with Connacht but, by his own admission, the Athlone man struggled in the months that followed the World Cup, describing his own form as “up and down.”

Carty had been through a whirlwind time leading up to and during the World Cup. He made his debut for Ireland during the 2019 Six Nations, winning three relatively brief caps off the bench during that unconvincing Ireland campaign, while there were a further four in the World Cup warm-up games as he beat Ross Byrne to a spot in the final squad.

Carty got his first Ireland start against Wales in a 22-17 win before the trip to Japan and he naturally put huge amounts of energy into preparing for and being part of that World Cup campaign. So perhaps a hangover of sorts was inevitable.

jack-carty-dejected-after-the-game Ireland's World Cup campaign was disappointing. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Conor Fitzgerald’s impressive form with Connacht meant Andy Friend had another viable option for the number 10 shirt and Carty missed out in the selection battle on a couple of occasions post-World Cup, while he also lined out at fullback for the first time in a Champions Cup clash with Gloucester in December.

Connacht head coach Friend, to his credit, was patient and understanding with Carty as the out-half looked to play his way back into the rhythm of his best form, while the Australian boss also encouraged Carty to switch off completely with a break in the New Year.

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It was on holiday with his girlfriend in Thailand that Carty realised just how mentally fatiguing 2019 had been for him. He described the trip as “a detox” and returned home to begin getting into his stride with Connacht.

It came a little too late in terms of the 2020 Six Nations, Carty missing out under the new Andy Farrell regime as Leinster’s Byrne returned to the fold to provide back-up to Sexton and Ulster’s Billy Burns was included for the first time.

But there was communication from Farrell – keep showing me what you can do, you’re in our thoughts.

It was frustrating for Carty that he was hitting his best just as lockdown kicked in. We were seeing his trademark variety of kicking class – banana kicks to touch, chips, cross-field kick passes, clever little grubbers.

There were examples of his offloading ability and vision in traffic, sharp passing, low chop tackling, and signs of a bit of swagger too. To have the season shutdown at that point was surely tough but Carty should carry that confidence into the new campaign with Connacht. 

jack-carty-and-conor-fitzgerald Carty with Conor Fitzgerald. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The western province take on Ulster and Munster next month in their two remaining 2019/20 Pro14 games but won’t feature in the play-offs – another frustration for Carty and co. as they look to impress Farrell.

With the 2019/20 Champions Cup knock-out games to follow in September, Connacht won’t be kicking off their 2020/21 Pro14 season until early October – meaning the players will have a break after their back-to-back inter-pros, also meaning Carty doesn’t have a huge number of fixtures to convince Farrell before Ireland return to action in late October.

Munster’s Joey Carbery will hope to be back in action by then, providing Farrell with another option at out-half, but any continuation of the revival Carty kick-started earlier this year will ensure the Connacht man is firmly in contention for a place with Ireland.

As importantly, Carty will be as central a figure as ever for his province.

As the tactical leader of the team and with 139 caps of experience for the province, Carty being at his inventive, creative best will be important in Friend’s refreshed squad as the westerners look to push on from a 2019/20 campaign that felt too like standing still.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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