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Dublin: 11°C Tuesday 11 May 2021

Lancaster: I think Joey Carbery should stay at Leinster

The Leinster senior coach maintains that the player must have the final say on any career move.

THE BIGGEST WEEK of Leinster’s season, but the topic of conversation continues to revolve around the future of Joey Carbery, with Stuart Lancaster insisting that the out-half should stay at the eastern province.

Joey Carbery Carbery has played most of his rugby at fullback for Leinster this season. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Lancaster used his pre-Champions Cup final press conference to send out a clear message amid intensifying speculation that Carbery will be moved to Ulster at the demand of Joe Schmidt and David Nucifora.

22-year-old Carbery, who was handed a Leinster senior contract last summer after coming through the province’s famed academy system, has featured 12 times for Leinster this season, but missed three months with an arm injury sustained against Fiji during the November internationals.

With Johnny Sexton first-choice at both club and country, the majority of Carbery’s minutes in blue have been in the fullback position, with the Pro14 defeat to Benetton three weeks ago his only start for Leinster at out-half this term.

The IRFU has insisted there is no ultimatum being issued, but Schmidt knows the importance of exposing Carbery — as Sexton’s understudy at international level — to regular game time ahead of next year’s World Cup.

But Carbery has previously expressed his desire to remain at his home province and Lancaster this afternoon stressed that the player’s want must be at the heart of any decision.

“I don’t know, if I’m being perfectly honest,” the Leinster senior coach said, when asked if Carbery was heading north.

“I’ve not been privy to the conversations. They’ve been taking place with Leo [Cullen], Ireland, Guy Easterby, etc.

“So, as far as I know, Joey is preparing for a Champions Cup final and that’s the way it is. I understand both sides of the story, I can see it from all points of view.

“I’ve been involved in situations in England with a player who has a decision to make and my belief has always been that you put the player at the centre and you do what’s right for the player. How it fares out, I don’t know if I’m being honest.”

Lancaster went onto admit that he believes it is in the best interests of Carbery to stay at Leinster.

“It’s difficult, these things inevitably come up towards the end of the season. I come back to the point that I made, whenever I was in this position or involved with a player who had a decision to make I always tried to say ‘right, what’s the best thing for the player. Not what’s right for this party or that party, what’s right for the player’.

Stuart Lancaster Lancaster speaking at UCD this afternoon. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“As a consequence, I think Joey has developed brilliantly at Leinster and I think this is where he should stay.

“He’s such a good player, a talented player I think. It’s through no fault of anyone’s that he hasn’t played as much this year, he’s been injured.

“But now is not the time for those conversations, not in a week as big as this.”

Leinster will train at their UCD base this afternoon ahead of Saturday’s final in Bilbao [KO 5.45pm, Sky Sports, BT Sport], with the province confident of having Luke McGrath and Jordi Murphy fit for Racing.

However, Fergus McFadden will miss the rest of the season after sustaining a hamstring injury in the semi-final defeat of Scarlets, while Rhys Ruddock will hope to win his fitness battle.

Above all, Lancaster maintains that the talk of Carbery’s future will not serve as a distraction this week as the province bid to win a fourth European crown.

“All the lads are 100% focused on this week,” he added.

“It’s such a big week in the context of the season, it’s the goal that everyone wants to aspire to — to get to a Champions Cup final and we’re not exceptions.

“I think they’re [Racing] a side that has come to their peak at the end of the season, when I look at their performances towards the end of the year they have been getting better and better and better.

“The depth of their squad is phenomenal. Any team that can leave Dan Carter on the bench is a serious threat. They’ve got threats all over the park, they’ve rested a lot of their key men for the weekend’s game and it’s a serious challenge.”

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Ryan Bailey

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