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'We see him as a 10 here' - Larkham clear on Carbery's qualities

The Munster attack coach also stressed that the province will pick on form for the Pro14 final against Leinster.

Munster out-half Joey Carbery.
Munster out-half Joey Carbery.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

EXPECT TO SEE more of Joey Carbery over the next few weeks.

Munster have understandably taken extra caution re-introducing the out-half back to action following his long-term injury absence, but the feeling is they are now ready to step up his time on the pitch and work him back into the starting 15.

Carbery has looked sharp and kicked well after coming off the bench in the Pro14 wins against Cardiff and Connacht, clocking up a total of 39 minutes on the pitch across those two games.

And he should get ample opportunity to add to those minutes ahead of the Pro14 final meeting with Leinster.

Having already qualified for this year’s final on 27 March, Munster have a bit of breathing space as they head into back-to-back games against Scarlets and Benetton and are expected to rotate their squad accordingly, particularly with their Champions Cup meeting with Toulouse now also confirmed.

Should he come through the next few weeks without any setbacks, a fit and firing Carbery would surely be pushing for a place in the starting team when those Leinster and Toulouse fixtures roll around, providing a blockbuster set of back-to-back games which could make-or-break the province’s season.

“The ideal situation is definitely to build his minutes up each week,” says Munster attack coach, Stephen Larkham.

“I felt he had a better game on the weekend (against Connacht), he has certainly been training exceptionally well. He is a lot more confident and we’ll select the team later in the week, but I think that from Joey’s perspective in order for him to get back to the player that he was, he needs to now progress his minutes on the field. We have done that over the last two weeks.

“The first game he only got 15 or 16 minutes and we got him some better time on the weekend. It will continue in that vein I’d say.”

While Carbery’s return has been a boost for both Munster and Ireland supporters, it’s also an exciting development for the man charged with fine-tuning Munster’s attacking game – Carbery has only started one game for the province since Larkham arrived in Limerick in the summer of 2019.

The former Australia No 10 knows a good out-half when he sees one, and he certainly views the versatile Carbery as a 10. 

Munster have a healthy stock of young out-halves coming through, and Carbery’s ability to play fullback – a position former employers Leinster felt he was better suited to – had led to some speculation he could be redeployed.

“We see him as a 10 here. I know he has played a number of different positions, mostly fullback and 10,” Larkham explained.

“I see his game control as excellent, he really understands when to pull the trigger on plays. He has a really good presence amongst the team, so he calls the game very well. And he has got a really good skillset around his catch and pass and his kicking game.

The added benefit with Joey is he has got a bit of X-factor as well. He has got that ability to carry the ball and make a break. He has got a good turn of speed. He has got really good agility. When you say all that he’s a pretty complete footballer.

“The most important thing from a five-eighths perspective, for me, it is to make sure you have got really good basics. You have got to have good catch pass, you have got to have a good kick and you have got to be able to control the game. He does those exceptionally well. So the other stuff is just a bonus on top.

“His challenge will be I guess, just trying to find that form, looking back at his old games where he played full 80 minute performances. He is influential throughout that 80 minutes and I think his challenge is making sure he is fit enough that he can turn it on when he needs to.”

Carbery won’t be the only one vying for minutes in the coming weeks, and Munster are aware of the need to manage their squad accordingly.

While there will be some temptation to keep certain players fresh ahead of the games against Leinster and Toulouse, the province, who are on a four-game winning run, also want to carry some momentum into those fixtures.

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Not having their international contingent available until the week of the Leinster game complicates matters in terms of preparation, but Larkham stresses that positive individual performances against Scarlets and Benetton won’t go unnoticed.

“We’re not picking on reputation, we’re picking on form coming into this and the form is the game time and their performance, their training performance and the way that they’ve recovered and, you know, how serious they are about performing.”

However Larkham would not be drawn on whether they will look to rotate their squad between the Leinster and Toulouse games, an approach which Stuart Lancaster has hinted Leinster may take, given the Pro14 final is sandwiched between the weekends of Ireland’s Six Nations meeting with England and the Champions Cup round of 16 ties.

“If you look at our cycle we’re not going past the (Pro14) final at this stage. It will literally be put everything into the final and we’ll move onto the next week after that,” Larkham says.

“We’re prepping everything for that final and they’ll be no focus from coaches on the rounds after that until the final is finished.” 

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