Game time

'If I'm on the pitch I'm happy': Carbery craving minutes

The 22-year-old starts for Leinster today but his return to provincial duty means a positional change too.

THE SITUATION HASN’T really changed. Minutes still mean everything to an athlete, and Joey Carbery knows he hasn’t got enough of them in any position this season. He’s craving them at this stage.

Joey Carbery Oisin Keniry / INPHO Carbery speaking to the media earlier in the week. Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland’s back-up out-half was drip fed seconds during the Six Nations, only to be used in an emergency, and now comes back to Leinster stranded in no-man’s land. He starts today against the Ospreys at fullback having not played a minute at 10 for his province this season.

Johnny Sexton remains immovable, and Ross Byrne has established himself as the understudy. Carbery’s role in blue is now in the number 15 jersey.

“I wouldn’t mind playing to be honest, and get some proper game time under my belt,” he said earlier in the week.

“I haven’t had a full 80 in a while.”

Five months, to be exact.

The former Blackrock College man has not played a full 80 minutes — in any position, in any team — since Leinster’s win over Glasgow Warriors in the Champions Cup on 21 October last year. Therein lies the problem.

“You just need to make it up in training just to keep yourself fresh for the games,” he says. “You’re not too tired then when you come on off the bench — so yeah, just keeping on top of your fitness really is the big thing.”

Getting through fitness work and ‘reps’ in training can be valuable for clocking miles in the legs and building up match sharpness, but any player’s development relies on exposure. At this stage, the number on his back matters little to Carbery. He wants to play rugby.

“Ten is obviously my position, and it’s pretty tough to knock Johnny out of that position at this stage, playing so well. I’m happy if someone needs me to play somewhere else — I’m happy to be on the pitch.

“I’ve played a bit of 12 in training.. if I’m needed to play 12, 13, wherever, I’m more than happy to play there.  I’m happy, if the team needs be somewhere I’ll play there. I won’t become a prop or anything but if I’m on the pitch I’m happy.”

Carbery is one of seven members of Joe Schmidt’s Grand Slam-winning squad back for Leinster this evening as they resume their Pro14 campaign with a tricky trip to the Ospreys [KO 7.35pm].

Leo Cullen’s men are currently in control of Conference B — leading Scarlets by three points with four rounds remaining — and are also facing into a Champions Cup showdown with Saracens at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday week.

Ireland’s Joey Carbery Inpho / Billy Stickland Carbery scored 10 points during the Six Nations. Inpho / Billy Stickland / Billy Stickland

The province are now hoping to maintain the momentum built up by the national team.

“It gives us a taste of winning a bit of silverware so it makes us a bit more hungry for the rest of the season,” Carbery continued. “The next two weeks are pretty big regarding how well we’ll do in the season. I think it’s just a good environment and pretty exciting at this stage.

“We’ve had that taste of silverware, and it makes you a bit more hungry to taste it again. Where we are with the season now, it’s possible that we might [follow Grand Slam with European Cup like in 2009], so everyone is extra hungry, extra focused to perform well over the next few weeks, which will hopefully put us in a good position.”

There are already plenty of eyes turning to next week and the visit of Saracens to Dublin, but Cullen spoke this week of the challenge which awaits his side in Wales this evening, with Ospreys also able to call upon six of their internationals.

Captain Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Biggar and Justin Tipuric, who all started Wales’ 14-13 win over France last week, are all straight back into the starting XV and will provide provide a stern appraisal of Leinster’s credentials.

That said, the province — who are boosted by the return of the likes of Carbery, McGrath, Porter and Murphy — have lost just one of the last 11 meetings between the sides, a 25-19 defeat at today’s venue back in April 2014.

It’s never an easy place to go and certainly Cullen was aware earlier in the week of how tough it will be to come away with the points.

“A lot of guys will be scrapping to put in a performance to try and get in the team for the following week,” Cullen said. “They know what’s at stake.”


15. Dan Evans
14. Jeff Hassler
13. Kieron Fonotia
12. Ashley Beck
11. Hanno Dirksen
10. Dan Biggar
9. Tom Habberfield

1. Nicky Smith
2. Scott Otten
3. Dmitri Arhip
4. Bradley Davies
5. Alun Wyn Jones (captain)
6. Olly Cracknell
7. Justin Tipuric
8. Sam Cross


16. Ifan Phillips
17. Rhodri Jones
18. Ma’afu Fia
19. Adam Beard
20. Rob McCusker
21. Matthew Aubrey
22. Sam Davies
23. Owen Watkin


15. Joey Carbery
14. Fergus McFadden
13. Rory O’Loughlin
12. Noel Reid
11. Barry Daly
10. Ross Byrne
9. Luke McGrath (captain)

1. Jack McGrath
2. Seán Cronin
3. Andrew Porter
4. Ross Molony
5. Scott Fardy
6. Josh Murphy
7. Jordi Murphy
8. Jack Conan


16. James Tracy
17. Ed Byrne
18. Michael Bent
19. Ian Nagle
20. Max Deegan
21. Jamison Gibson-Park
22. Dave Kearney
23. Adam Byrne

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