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Carbery's former coach on what the rising star brings to Leinster

Clontarf’s Andy Wood wasn’t at all surprised by how well the fly-half started the Pro12 season.

Leinster fly-half Joey Carbery in action against Benetton Treviso.
Leinster fly-half Joey Carbery in action against Benetton Treviso.

JOEY CARBERY’S PERFORMANCES last season were of such quality that Clontarf coach Andy Wood reluctantly accepted that he probably wouldn’t be able to call on the classy out-half for this coming campaign.

Those comments, which came after Carbery starred in Clontarf’s Ulster Bank League final victory last May, seem prophetic now, less than a week after the Leinster academy player’s first Pro12 start for the province.

Carbery’s man-of-the-match display against Benetton Treviso last Friday earned him rave reviews, and his seamless transition to Pro12 level certainly didn’t surprise Wood.

“The way he played for Leinster was how he played with us last year,” the Kiwi coach said at the launch of this season’s Ulster Bank League.

“Personally, I’m really delighted that he’s obviously been given a brief to play.

“Hopefully the team will be built around him and when he gets the opportunities his talents will be brought to the forefront. It was a pretty outstanding [full] debut.”

Carbery was born in Auckland but moved to Athy as a 12-year-old, and his abilities, particularly his clever running lines, soft hands and rangy athleticism, have been impressing Wood for some time.

“He was a different level to what we would have been used to,” Wood continued.

“I know he was with the Irish 20s as well as Clontarf but given the opportunities I think his skill-set will be brought to the fore.”

Carbery also featured at fullback during defensive set-pieces for Clontarf last season and that was to make the most of his attacking abilities rather than protect any defensive frailties in his game, Wood said of the 6ft, 86kg playmaker.

“The reason we played him at fullback was for teams to kick kick-returns to us, not to showcase our skills but just to utilise his talents the best we could.

“Obviously he’s a great open-field runner, he brings support players into play really well and he’s got a great step, so those talents on kick-returns suited how we wanted to play and bring the ball back to the opposition.”

Carbery faces tough opposition in his bid to be Johnny Sexton’s understudy this season with Cathal Marsh and fellow academy member Ross Byrne also in the frame. But on the back of his opening audition this season, Carbery, 20, will be a difficult act to follow.

Andy Wood celebrates Clontarf coach Andy Wood. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

His performance last Friday night caused plenty of people to sit back and take notice.

And while Carbery is clearly a particularly special talent, Wood admits that his performance at the RDS has been an eye-opener for his Clontarf squad.

Seeing the fly-half excel at such an early stage of his Pro12 career has shown them that the gulf in class may not be as vast as they had previously thought.

“I think it opens some guys’ eyes to the fact that playing club rugby is an opportunity, it is a pathway that can lead to greater things,” Wood added, ahead of the start of the UBL season next weekend.

“In general terms there’s been a bit of chat, a bit of excitement, having played pretty recently with Joey, so a lot of our lads would definitely have got a buzz out of it.

“It’s great to see guys going on and representing Leinster and going on to higher things.”

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Alan Waldron

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