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Jack of all trades Carbery covering scrum-half for Ireland against Russia

The 23-year-old Munster man will be wearing the number 21 shirt tomorrow in Kobe.

AND SO IT is that Joey Carbery is genuinely providing scrum-half cover in a World Cup game for Ireland.

With Joe Schmidt having selected only two scrum-halves in his 31-man squad for Japan in the shape of Conor Murray and Luke McGrath, Carbery’s history as a scrum-half was always likely to be useful.

joey-carbery Carbery came off the bench at out-half on Saturday against Japan. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Munster playmaker was a scrum-half up until U18 level and then began the process of moving to out-half, while also playing fullback on Blackrock College’s Leinster Schools Senior Cup-winning team in 2014. 

There were some within Leinster who felt he should move into the pro game as a scrum-half, but things have worked out well for him since focusing on being an out-half, even if it took the move to Munster to ensure he got regular first-choice starts in the position at provincial level.

Here in Japan, he is also Ireland’s third-choice scrum-half and with Murray being given tomorrow night off, Carbery will cover McGrath from the bench.

It may be that McGrath plays all 80 minutes at Kobe Misaki Stadium, but Carbery has been preparing in case of an injury or in the event that Ireland build up a big lead that lets him have a short run at scrum-half.

His head coach, Joe Schmidt, underlined that Carbery is covering several other positions tomorrow, with Jack Carty backing-up Johnny Sexton at out-half.

“Joey has trained at scrum-half on and off probably three or four times so far,” said Schmidt of Carbery, who made his return from an ankle injury off the bench at out-half against Japan on Saturday.

“He trained a good bit at scrum-half and then out with Luke today. He’s also there to cover fullback, you know, he’s a very good fullback and he’s another back-up 10 for us if we needed it.

“On the back of last weekend where we ended up with a scrum-half on the wing, I think Joey might not be the worst replacement to have because he’s got a bit of versatility.

joey-carbery Carbery at Ireland training in Kobe yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“He could even slot in at 12 and do a really good job and would give us a bit of two-sided attack and that wouldn’t be the worst thing either.

“So having him on the bench is potentially a bit of a bonus for us. If things work out well it would be nice to give him a little bit of time at scrum-half, just to have him be a little bit comfortable there not having played it since he was really probably a schoolboy.”

Ireland skills and kicking coach Richie Murphy is a man who works closely with Carbery and he believes the 23-year-old can do a job at scrum-half if called upon.

“It’s something we’ve obviously been thinking about for a long time back home,” said Murphy. “The unfortunate thing for Joey was the amount of time that was taken off him after the injury, but we still felt it was a way we were going to go.

“And once we’ve come over, he’s done some work on that. He’s trained there on numerous occasions. He feels comfortable and we didn’t just throw him in there.

“We asked him how he felt about it and we made a decision in relation to the squad of players that we brought, about only bringing five halfbacks.

“His versatility in relation to playing 15, playing 10 and being able to cover nine was one of those factors. So he’s happy to do it, he’d obviously prefer to be playing at 10 but these are the days where you put the squad first and, in fairness to Joey, he’s done that.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Kobe

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