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'It’s the next two weeks which will really determine whether he’s up and running'

Joey Carbery has been back on his feet this week but it’s unclear if he’ll be fit for the World Cup.

THE SIGHT OF Joey Carbery on his feet and running yesterday as Ireland wrapped up their eight-day training camp in Portugal was certainly one for sore eyes.

Watching the Munster man crumple after trapping his ankle in a tackle against Italy two weekends ago, following an outstanding individual performance, everyone feared the worst.

Joe Schmidt confirmed there had been no fracture, and some relief spread amongst Irish fans. Carbery did require a surgical procedure to fix the ankle issue, however, and Ireland put a four- to six-week recovery timeframe on his recovery.

Joey Carbery Carbery was classy against Italy before injury in the second half. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It has been clear this week that Ireland have concerns about whether or not Carbery will recover in time to travel to the World Cup, ensuring that Ross Byrne and Jack Carty will be pressed into action tomorrow against England.

With Sexton on ice for now, having sat out parts of Ireland’s training this week, Schmidt is essentially challenging the relatively inexperienced Leinster and Connacht men to make his decision over Carbery clearer by showing they are capable of backing-up Sexton in Japan. 

The Ireland boss does, of course, retain hope that Carbery will be passed fit to travel but he admits it is still difficult to say how it will work out for the 23-year-old.

“Is Joey available or not? We’re waiting just like you guys really,” said Schmidt yesterday in Portugal. “We’re going to wait and see how he goes. He’s progressed well this week but we have to be patient. It’s the next two weeks which will really determine whether he’s up and running.

“If he gets back for the Wales game [on 7 September], we know he’s good. If he doesn’t, if he’s not looking like he’s getting up and running – because we have to name the squad before that – then we’ve got a decision to make.

“And part of that whole conundrum is the two lads who get to play this weekend and that’s part of the logic in giving them the opportunity.”

Schmidt would dislike carrying an injured player into the World Cup but Carbery may be one of those he’s willing to make an exception for, particularly because the Athy man has looked like being key to the make-up of Ireland’s squad, potentially allowing them to carry just two recognised scrum-halves.

“I know Joey well and I’ve got a lot of time for Joey,” said Schmidt. “One of the frustrations for us is that versatility Joey gives us.

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Joey Carbery comes on for Jonathan Sexton Schmidt has never really explored the possibility of Sexton and Carbery starting together. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“The other three 10s tend to be locked-on 10s. Joey can play 15 and 9 – that’s massive in a World Cup squad. I think 31 is a very skinny squad when you’ve got five- and four-day turnarounds in a tournament. 

“When player management and player welfare is being trumpeted as the number one priority, it just seems that that’s at cross-purposes with that. But it does force you to consider someone of Joey’s talent and flexibility, even if you don’t think he’ll get that last Wales game as a lead-in, but you think he’ll be fully fit for the Scotland game.

“Part of that equation is how the two lads go this weekend because it’s a contest, everyone is in that competition for spots.”

While Carbery has never played Test rugby for Ireland at scrum-half, he did play there as a youngster and would be relatively comfortable in slotting into the role in an emergency situation.

He has played 112 minutes across three appearances at fullback for Ireland, slotting back there during games against Australia, the US and England, and has always been an interesting possibility in that position – offering Ireland the ability to use two genuine playmakers in Carbery and Johnny Sexton.

“We actually feel that a couple of guys do it for us,” said Schmidt. “I think Garry Ringrose is a guy who can play at first receiver.

“He’s played a bit there at school, so it’s not that far outside his ability scope, and he’s such a measured kid that he doesn’t get ruffled. So I think he can do it.

“You’re dead right, Joey playing at 15 and then a double-sided 10 is a nice thing to be able to do. I think that’s why Fozzie [Ian Foster] and Steve [Hansen] were disappointed to lose Damian McKenzie.

“He played the season for the Chiefs at 10 and him stepping up from 15, especially with the athleticism he’s got… I think that’s part of the formula now why they’ve gone with Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett shifting back to fullback, but it may not have worked out like that if Damian McKenzie had been available.”

Murray joins Bernard and Gavan with all the latest from training camp in Portugal, including a concerning update on Joey Carbery’s fitness. Plus, BBC Scotland’s Tom English explains why the Scots have a negative perception of Joe Schmidt’s Ireland team.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Murray Kinsella

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