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'He’s a class player. We’re certainly not going to rush him and we’ll manage him'

Joey Carbery made his Munster return last night, kicking an excellent conversion.

Carbery made his long-awaited return last night.
Carbery made his long-awaited return last night.
Image: Ryan Hiscott/INPHO

MUNSTER HEAD COACH Johann van Graan was delighted to see Joey Carbery back on a rugby field last night but said the talented playmaker’s return won’t be rushed in any way.

Carbery tasted his first action since early January 2020 after recovering from persistent ankle trouble when he played 17 minutes of Munster’s 20-11 Guinness Pro14 win at Cardiff Blues.

The 25-year-old playmaker appeared as a second-half substitute in the Welsh capital. He kicked a last-minute touchline conversion with aplomb.

“It was great to see Joey back on the pitch,” said van Graan. “I said to him before the game to go out there and enjoy it. He took a big hit when he came on which got him into the game straight away.

“He had a few nice passes and a good penalty to touch. I was really pleased for him and the team that he got that conversion from the sideline to put us out of sight. He’s a class player.

“We’ll just give him some more minutes and take our time because he’s been out for a long time.

“We’re certainly not going to rush him and we’ll manage him well. We’ve had some very good performances from our 10s this season.

“JJ Hanrahan came back in tonight and played really well, Ben Healy has been on fire this season and will get more opportunities.

“We still have a long way to go in the rest of our season so it’s important we have that quality. We’ll take it week-by-week and what Covid has taught us is to not look too far ahead.

“Joey is comfortable in multiple positions, but we’ll see how it goes and manage him. We’ll make sure our 10s get ample game time and rotate there over the next few weeks.”

joey-carbery-kicks-a-conversion-late-in-the-game Carbery slotted an excellent conversion. Source: Ryan Hiscott/INPHO

Carbery’s return is not just a boost for Munster but also for Ireland, although Van Graan’s comments hint he is highly unlikely to play a part in the rest of the current Six Nations.

Munster were winners in Cardiff thanks to tries from Jean Kleyn and Niall Scannell. Carbery converted Scannell’s effort in classy fashion to deny the hosts a losing bonus point.

But Van Graan was rightly not happy with his team’s display. It lacked accuracy in attack and a ruthlessness required to beat the best teams. Munster failed to convert their pressure into points although Cardiff and Wales flanker Ellis Jenkins was outstanding in preventing Irish attacks.

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Had home out-half Ben Thomas kicked his goals, it could have been a different story.

“It was a really tough game of rugby – it always is when you come down to Cardiff. I’m really happy with the win, but it was not our best performance of the season,” said van Graan.

“I felt we created a few opportunities, but they made life very difficult for us at the breakdown. I’m happy with our win record away from home.

“I certainly think our accuracy could have been better. We actually played some pretty decent rugby and spent a lot of time on their try-line but then conceded quite a few turnovers and penalties.

“We took two chances and I was really happy with the last maul where we mauled for 20 metres to score. Joey kicked the conversion so I’m very happy with the win.”

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