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Dublin: 6 °C Sunday 16 December, 2018

Carbery's absence doesn't bother Cullen as highly-rated Frawley steps up

The expectation was that the 22-year-old would feature against Scarlets today.

Carbery remained with Ireland this week.
Carbery remained with Ireland this week.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

THE EXPECTATION WAS that we’d see Joey Carbery back in blue later this afternoon. He has played no more than an hour of rugby since November, and the opportunity to get minutes under his belt against Scarlets appeared to be tailor-made for his needs.

But the 22-year-old has become too important to Ireland, and Joe Schmidt. The head coach doesn’t take any notice of the clamour for Carbery to get game time at 10 before Wales. He’s too good, too precious a commodity to being thrown around for the sake of it.

It means Leinster and Leo Cullen have to plan without him. They haven’t seen much of Carbery around these parts over the last while. 22 minutes off the bench against Montpellier at the back end of January has been the extent of his Leinster involvement since October, although two months on the sideline was a setback for everyone.

So no sign of the former Blackrock College man leaving camp this week. He remained in Athlone with Joe’s troops and will put the feet up over the weekend ahead of Wales this day next week.

“I haven’t seen much of Joey over the last number of weeks,” Cullen joked yesterday. “I think he’s training well by the sounds of it.

“It’s difficult. I don’t know the full ins-and-outs of the shape of guys or if they trained properly over the last few days in [Ireland] camp.

“Joey is such a key part of what they are doing — him swapping between 10 and 15 when he is in camp gives him a chance to get some good work done. That’s the call that was made. He got off the bench against Italy for 30 minutes so that was good experience for him.

“Based on what he has done in the past, that’s good enough for him to get selected in the [Ireland] 23 at the moment and he’s playing a huge role and he’s going really well. Still, a very young guy, picking up experience all the time and he’s at the very sharp end of it, the Six Nations is an incredibly intense tournament so for his future development it’s an amazing thing to be part of.”

It also benefits Ross Byrne, who will hardly be complaining his team-mate remains unavailable. Extended game time in the pivot for the former Michael’s man, and with Cathal Marsh out injured, Leinster are digging deep into their out-half stocks.

Ciaran Frawley Ciaran Frawley could make his senior debut off the bench. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Academy back Ciaran Frawley was on the bench last week and as another versatile option, is highly-rated by Leinster.

“It’s a great chance for him,” Cullen says.

Likewise for Jordan Larmour, who remains the star attraction. Fresh from his Ireland debut, the 20-year-old is named at fullback with Adam Byrne and James Lowe alongside him. Box-office threat there.

Key for Leinster will be getting quick ball to provide the platform for their backs to cause damage. Scarlets did a job on the province here in last year’s Pro12 semi-final, and in Tadhg Beirne and the returning James Davies have two of the best turnover specialists in the game.

A big afternoon for the Murphys, Josh and Jordi, on his 100th Leinster appearance, then. Max Deegan completes the home side’s back row.

“I think it’s just seeing the threat nice and early, because once they get into the contact area they’re very strong to shift off the ball,” Cullen said. “Tadhg is usually wearing a bright blue scrum cap so he’s a bit easier to identify than the rest.

“They’ve caused us problems in the past so we need to make sure we’re strong in that area because they’re very disruptive. It’s important we’re strong in that area because ultimately we want to play and if not able to recycle the ball due to them being in the back of the tackle area, they’re very difficult to play against.

“We want to play when we’re at home in particular so it’s going to be a huge area of the game.”

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Ryan Bailey

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