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10 or 15? Leinster just happy to see Carbery continuing to improve

The Ireland international is learning with every game as he manages two positions.

JOEY CARBERY HAS set such high standards for himself this season that it’s jarring to see his performances levels dip.

But that’s what happened at the Kingspan Stadium last weekend as Leinster lost to Ulster, with the 21-year-old making his second start at out-half since February.

Joey Carbery tackled by Charles Piutau Carbery takes a heavy hit from Charles Piutau. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

There were the usual flashes of his attacking class, but several misplaced passes and questionable decisions too, as Leinster delivered a poor collective display.

Moving back to the 10 shirt after starring at fullback in recent months appeared to be testing, and it raises the question of what Carbery’s best position is.

He certainly sees himself as an out-half and brings huge value to the out-half role, but with Johnny Sexton the first-choice and Ross Byrne impressing this season, there has been more need for Carbery at 15, especially with Rob Kearney out injured.

Given his youth and relative lack of experience, Leinster understand that there will be demanding days for Carbery as he grows, particularly when moving up to out-half after stints at 15.

“We know it’s tough,” says Leo Cullen of the Pro12 young player of the season. “Joey has coped incredibly well with everything that has been thrown at him this year, and he’ll be better for the experience.

“That’s one of the things you take – you’re giving guys the experience and we’ve got ourselves to a home semi-final and Joey has been a huge contributor to that, whether that’s been at 10 or 15, so there’s been a lot of positives from him during the course of the season.

“It’s difficult for any 21-year-old trying to manage a game when you think of all that’s going on; a sold-out Kingspan, an emotionally-charged Ulster team, and he’ll be better for that experience.”

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Joey Carbery Carbery was named Pro12 young player of the season on Sunday. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Cullen insists that Carbery is content to jump between the two positions at this stage of his career, rather than requesting that he be used exclusively in one role.

“No, he’s happy,” says Cullen. “He even took on the place-kicking duties as well [against Ulster] and that’s a big step for him. Again, I just see it as another positive step. It’s not going to be perfect when you’ve got a 21-year-old stepping into such a key position.

“How many 21-year-olds are doing that around at this level of competition? So I just see it as another positive step.”

With 22-year-old Byrne also showing his quality this season, particularly with his clever attacking kicking, Leinster look in fine fettle in terms of out-half depth.

“I think it’s fantastic,” says Cullen. “Obviously with Ross there as well, and Cathal Marsh has had a lot of game time as well, and I think Ross has played the most minutes at 10 of all our 10s in the 22 games, so he’s played a huge role as well.

“He played against the Scarlets here in the RDS, he played at 10 and Joey at 15, and I thought the two of them were very, very good that day.”

- This article was updated at 9.35 am to correct ‘first start’ to ‘second start’ in the second paragraph, after Joey Carbery’s start at out-half against the Ospreys in April was erroneously overlooked.

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