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Dublin: 17°C Saturday 8 May 2021

'Playing at a World Cup is always something I've really, really wanted to do'

Joey Carbery recalls his earliest World Cup memories as he prepares for Japan 2019.

JOEY CARBERY KNOWS there’s a lot of water to pass under the bridge before he can start talking about playing in a first World Cup with definitive authority, but as summer progresses, the Ireland out-half is working hard to tick off every necessary box.

The momentum of his debut season at Munster — a hugely progressive one by all accounts — was stymied towards the back end by that deeply frustrating hamstring issue, an injury he had to keep an eye on during an American road trip earlier this month.

Joey Carbery Carbery has won 18 caps. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Refreshed both mentally and physically after three weeks off, Carbery was one of 44 players to report for Joe Schmidt’s pre-World Cup training camp in Carton House last week, as Ireland’s preparations for Japan kick into gear.

With 90 days to go until the campaign opener against Scotland, it is going to be a long summer for the players in camp, although training weeks in Galway, Limerick and Portugal will at least break up the monotony of Maynooth.

“It seems a bit far away but then the last week and a half has flown by,” Carbery considers. “It doesn’t seem like it has been a week and a half since we’ve been in camp, so that kind of gives me the inkling that it’s going to go very fast.

“We just have to enjoy it as well as you’re in playing with your friends, you’re staying with them in camp. You have to work hard but it’s a pretty enjoyable time.”

There was certainly no gentle re-introduction for the players from Schmidt and his coaching staff upon their arrival at Carton, with the hard work beginning straight away as Ireland combine gym, running and pitch sessions during this initial block.

“It has been pretty tough,” the 23-year-old continues. “We’ve done a good bit of work on the pitch and a good bit of work in the gym as well. I think everything is a bit easier when you have a ball in your hand rather than just mindless running.

“We’re also spending a lot of time together which is great and getting to know the newer lads a bit more as well which is good. I’m loving it so far.

It’s a huge buzz and excitement around the place because we know how important this period could be for us.

With his hamstring struggles [hopefully] in the rearview mirror, Carbery has been able to take a full part on the paddock, something he hasn’t been able to do in quite a while after battling for fitness since February.

Even still, Carbery featured 15 times for Munster last season, scoring over 150 points, and he was so pleased with how it went that he signed a long-term contract extension eight months into his Thomond Park career.

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All of those minutes came at out-half, of course, but Carbery’s versatility in also being able to play at fullback and centre makes him an even more valuable commodity for Schmidt in a 31-man squad.

Joey Carbery Carbery pictured as part of Avonmore's 'You've Got This' campaign. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Being able to play fullback hopefully will work in my favour,” he says. “If you think about a 31-man squad, there’s only 23 involved on game day so it’s going to be a pretty tough eight weeks [to get in it] and hopefully the versatility will add to my chances.

“It is a thing that could scare you [thinking about getting into the squad] but all I’m trying to think of is improving week by week and working hard. Hopefully, I can put my hand up early and be in with a shout. Injury is part and parcel of what we do. You can do your work in the gym and your prehab to try and make sure you minimise the injuries you can get.

“That’s my focus now, to get as strong and as fit as I can. Hopefully I’ll be ready.”

Either way, it’s hard to ignore the prospect of playing in a World Cup.

“It’s always something that I’ve really, really wanted to do,” he continues. “Watching them when I was younger and stuff. 

My first memory would probably be 2003, I watched a good bit of that World Cup. That was the one Brian O’Driscoll scored that try in the corner with the blonde hair, and then I remember watching the All Blacks getting knocked out, I think it was in the semi, when Stirling Mortlock got the intercept try [for Australia].

All things considered, it could make for a special Autumn for the Carberys as Joey looks to create some World Cup memories of his own in green. 

“My parents and my girlfriend are definitely going over,” the Munster 10 adds. “It’s hard to plan for, you just don’t know with injuries or with anything that’s going to happen.

“When they do go over, it will be a last minute job. I suppose it doesn’t happen too often and it only comes around every four years and who’s to say I’ll be around for the next one. It’s pretty special for them to be involved in it too.”

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Ryan Bailey

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