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'I was so hell-bent on the end goal, maybe off the field I was a disaster to be around'

Jack Carty is enjoying his rugby and has returned to the Ireland squad a better player than before.

Carty at the beach in Portugal.
Carty at the beach in Portugal.
Image: Ryan Bailey/INPHO

WITH IRELAND EXPECTED to name a settled-looking starting team for their Six Nations opener against Wales next weekend, there is almost as much intrigue about who Andy Farrell will go for on the Irish bench.

Johnny Sexton will be the captain and starting out-half but it remains to be seen who backs him up among the replacements.

Joey Carbery is fit and taking part in contact training again, meaning he could reprise his role as Sexton’s understudy, but Connacht’s Jack Carty has done everything in his power to earn a shot in Ireland’s matchday squad.

The 29-year-old last played for Ireland at the 2019 World Cup and he is hoping that the next few weeks allow him to end that narrative about him being on the outside looking in.

“It would be nice to maybe close that chapter if I get on the field,” said Carty today from Ireland’s training camp in Portugal.

“It has been a long journey up and down. Every player in their career goes through periods of non-selection and I think it’s about how you learn from that. I think I’ve learned a lot about myself and my team-mates have learned a lot about me.”

Carty has returned to the Ireland squad as a better player than the one who featured in 2019.

The way Connacht are playing now under Andy Friend and senior coach Peter Wilkins has been of great benefit to Carty, who also credits the province’s assistant coaches – Mossy Lawler, Colm Tucker, and Dewald Senekal – for their impact this season.

Carty has been able to play with real clarity in his mind about what his coaches want, with his skills sharpening as a result.

“It’s very simple for me in attack with those principles, especially around squareness,” he explains.

jack-carty-runs-in-to-score-his-sides-second-try Carty has impressed for Connacht. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“The squareness part… I was quite lateral in attack. In other years it worked for us, but I probably wasn’t as much of a threat on the ball, and I find now with the way we try to play in Connacht I can bring other players into the game, other players are seeing what I’m seeing and there is more fluidity in how we’re playing.”

Carty feels there are “some similarities” with the way Ireland are playing under Farrell, who has been very complimentary of the out-half’s improvement on the ball in attack.

That said, there has been lots for Carty to pick up in a short space of time with Ireland, whose attack has different subtleties – as he realised while watching their impressive autumn campaign.

“There were parts which were completely new and it was obviously something they’d worked on and I really wanted to know, so I was asking Bundee [Aki] and Finlay [Bealham] what were they doing in these situations.

“After getting in now, and not giving anything away, and getting an understanding of what Faz and Catty [Mike Catt, Ireland's attack coach] wanted in attack has been really eye-opening for me.”

While his attack has developed, Carty’s kicking game has also gone from strength to strength. This remains a crucial part of Test rugby.

“International rugby is about how you apply pressure and I’d like to think that if there is kick space, whether it be contestable or long, that with the other lads around I’ll be able to find it,” said Carty, who points out how Ireland have several kicking options across their backline. 

And the Athlone man believes he is a better defender now than was the case a few years ago.

“When I was a young fella, it probably wouldn’t have been something I enjoyed as much but now I really enjoy it.

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“It’s something that I’d like to take pride in, in terms of getting off the line and making defensive reads and tackles.” 

johnny-sexton-and-jack-carty Sexton and Carty at Ireland training. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

As important to Carty as the on-pitch skills is his growth as a leader and as a person. 

He has come to realise that being more relaxed benefits him. Carty is enjoying captaining Connacht this season and feels he has become more mindful and prepared in how he speaks to his team-mates during training weeks.

He has noticed in recent days how “incredibly accurate” Sexton is with his ability to communicate messages on the spot and Carty feels he can learn from that trait.

As he now goes about trying to get back onto the pitch in an Ireland jersey during the Six Nations, Carty is in a good headspace.

“Previously, I was so hell-bent on getting to that end goal [of playing for Ireland], that maybe off the field I was probably a disaster to be around at times.

“When I play best, I have a smile on my face. If I can set up things off the field to be in a place where it needs to be, it enables me to excel and do what I want to on the pitch.

“I think when I was playing rugby for many years I probably looked like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders, but now I really enjoy what I’m doing.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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