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In time, Carbery could solve a lot of Ireland's problems without replacing Sexton

Murray Kinsella, Bernard Jackman and Gavan Casey discussed the Munster man’s positional future ahead of his return to action last night.

Joey Carbery and Johnny Sexton on Irelan duty in 2019.
Joey Carbery and Johnny Sexton on Irelan duty in 2019.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

ON THIS WEEK’S The42 Rugby Weekly podcast (available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your pods), Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey discussed Ireland’s struggles in attack.

Is it a coaching problem or a player-responsibility issue?

And what role does Joey Carbery have in it? Is he an out-half or a fullback? Could he potentially solve Ireland’s problems by slotting in at 15?

“I think at the moment, there’s probably a more prevalent need for him to be backup to Johnny or to replace Johnny eventually — just because we haven’t been able to find another 10 who has proven himself to be of the same ability as Joey while Joey has been out,” Jackman said.

“Can he play 15? Yeah, he definitely can. I know Leinster thought he was better suited to 15 than to 10. If you play him 15, you get an extra playmaker in the team whereas if you play him at 10 with Hugo Keenan [at 15] and the centres who are playing at the moment, you still have the same issue of playing with just one playmaker. So, that’s a concern.

Jackman urged “not put pressure on him”, as did Murray and Gavan, stressing the need for Carbery to find full fitness, but the former Grenoble and Dragons head coach added: “If he hits where he was at, he’ll be the next best 10, and then it’s a case of whether Mike Catt wants to play with two playmakers and puts him in at 15 with Sexton.”

Gavan then said to Murray:

“Hugo Keenan has been a revelation at 15 for Leinster and for Ireland more recently and yet, you think of that James Lowe chance in the corner against France, where maybe Keenan delays the pass — it’s not the most natural aspect to his game. We’ve had similar concerns over Jordan Larmour at fullback and Ireland haven’t really had a playmaking fullback outside of Will Addison over the last two years.

“Does Carbery playing at 15 — and I mean when he’s found his feet properly in six months’ time — add a string to Ireland’s bow that they actually can’t do without at the moment? Or, is it the case that they really can’t do without a 10 to replace Sexton in the short to medium term?”

“Absolutely, that’s the big question for Andy Farrell and co,” Murray replied. “Munster signed him as a 10, you know? And they’ll want him to lead the side from that position, I think, while also understanding that there are three really talented out-halves coming through in Jack Crowley, Ben Healy and Jake Flannery — guys who probably aren’t ready to start those really big matches yet; they haven’t gotten the exposure to those matches yet. But you’d hope that they’d continue their progress and that would open up the pitch for [Munster].

“I suppose, from my point of view, I think the 10-15 or 10-12 — the dual playmaker role — is a good model because it means that one guy isn’t alone in being the main man. Yeah, the 10′s got to call plays, he’s in a really central hub of the team and you want to have a clear tactical leader. But I think the issue with Ireland is that that’s been too prominent — that Johnny Sexton has been too much the leader, that he’s been handed too much responsibility.

“We’ve talked about it in the past, how opposition teams have just felt, ‘We get to him and we stop their attack.’ George Ford spoke about that last year, that England felt everything goes through Johnny Sexton and they could just shut that down.

“There’s also Johnny Sexton and his future tied up in this as well. He’s going to sign a one-year contract with the IRFU. Beyond that, we don’t know and he’s probably having doubts about how long it goes on beyond that as well.

“Whether you move early to put Joey in at 10 or you play him with Sexton in the same team; I could see [the latter] happening in the shorter term. But then, is that a detriment to him playing at 10 long-term?

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“It’s a really interesting one to weigh up but getting his skill set back into both teams (Munster and Ireland) is the most important factor. He’s brilliant at things like scanning, seeing where the space is, and communicating that to others — as well as directing that from 10 and responding to others giving those cues as well.

“But I can see him playing at 15, to be honest, especially as he eases his way back into things now, because that potentially removes him from some of that traffic and some of that contact as well.

“Certainly, he’s got the skill set [to play 15]. As Bernard mentions, Stuart Lancaster felt that was his position — albeit Johnny Sexton was there at 10!”

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey look ahead to Italy-Ireland, discuss Joey Carbery’s positional future with province and country, and try to figure out what happens next with the postponed France-Scotland fixture:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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