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Dublin: 10°C Friday 7 May 2021

'He's come up through the Leinster system, you're now telling him he has to leave?'

Luke Fitzgerald says it wouldn’t make sense for the IRFU to ask Joey Carbery to leave Leinster in a bid to get more game time at out-half.

Carbery has played just 66 minutes at out-half all season.
Carbery has played just 66 minutes at out-half all season.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO



“It’s a difficult situation, isn’t it?” Luke Fitzgerald, the former Ireland and Leinster winger, sighs.

Just in case you’ve living under a rock, here follows a quick rundown.

Joe Schmidt wants the 22-year-old as his long-term 10 but the problem, you see, is that he needs the game time and exposure in that pivot position to develop into the truly world class player he has every potential to be. Minutes are key.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” the Ireland coach said last week, referring to the fact Carbery has played all his minutes at fullback for Leinster this season. And it showed at the weekend.

While outstanding with ball in hand and in attack, there are sides to Carbery’s game that can only be nurtured and developed in big-game Test environments. Place-kicking is one, and game management another.

Schmidt knows it’s an almost impossible task for a player so young — even a multi-talented prospect like Carbery — to play club rugby in one position and then a different position in the Test arena.

Leinster have used Carbery at fullback not only because he has been outstanding in the 15 jersey this term, but because Johnny Sexton and Ross Byrne have occupied the out-half berth in tandem.

On one hand, Carbery’s development as a player is being aided by regular game time but his metamorphosis into a Test-quality out-half has suffered.

And therein lies the conundrum.

Should what Schmidt wants take precedence? And does that mean Carbery should leave Leinster to get regular game time at 10 elsewhere?

“I don’t see him moving,” Fitzgerald says. “He’s playing in a really good team. I played with a brilliant Leinster pack and that’s a brilliant Leinster pack. If you’re a back, you should want to be there because that makes your job completely different if you’re getting good ball. You’re always going to have a good scrum, a good line out so I’d be staying here if I was him.

Joey Carbery Carbery has been Leinster's first-choice fullback this season. Source: Gerhard Steenkamp/INPHO

“I’d be thinking, I’m going to get good opportunities here, I’m going to get good front foot ball. More often than not my pack is going to be better than the opposition pack. There’s no chance of him moving, he’d be mad to move.”

But it may be out of Carbery’s hands, mightn’t it?

Can the IRFU’s influence over the provinces extend to asking the former Blackrock College student leave Leinster in the interest of the national team?

“That’s part of that conversation, how do you do that?” Fitzgerald wonders.

“Do you say ‘this isn’t the best thing for you, you’ve to shift now?’ I think people who say those things are crazy, there’s no way they can do that. He’s signed a contract to play for Leinster.

“If they don’t want to offer him another one at Leinster, I’d say he’d might have a pretty serious conversation with Leo Cullen, Stuart Lancaster and Mick Dawson [Leinster chief executive] because that ain’t going to happen from their perspective. I think you’ll find a few people resigning if they were forced to let some of the best players that have come up through your system go. Like he’s a Blackrock kid, you’re now telling him he has to leave? I don’t think so.

“I think people are delusional about that possibly, the suggestions were made looking at it from a helicopter point of view at what Irish rugby needs but there’s no way he’s going to shift. Playing in a winning team, playing under a really good coach — I mean they’re all learning a huge amount under Stuart Lancaster. He’s in good hands there.

“It wouldn’t make sense to me.”

While of the belief that there is no way Carbery should leave Leinster, whether it be his decision or not, Fitzgerald says there are some players who need to leave the province to advance their career.

“You’d have to look at Leinster and there’s guys there who are going to be sitting on the bench or they’re playing for a bench position for the next three or four years and they could miss a window in their career and they don’t get to kick on because you need to be exposed to big games,” he continues.

Pfizer Today Is Better 09 Fitzgerald today launched Pfizer's #TodayIsBetter campaign, which gives those with chronic pain a chance to have their say on what would help them have a better day. Source: Andres Poveda

“You look at them and say he would probably start in one of the other teams. The IRFU have made a decision, which in fairness makes complete sense as they’re competing against themselves essentially, but you can’t offer someone a higher contract in a different province. The first offer from an Irish province, you cannot be outbid by another province for a guy.

“Which means it’s hard to incentivise guys to move from home, from a really good coach to another province because you can’t offer them more money. But you look at Leinster and there’s just so much talent and there’s loads of people just sitting there.

“Even when I was there, there were loads of guys I was looking at thinking when everyone’s fit, you’re not starting here. I think off the back of that I’d be saying ‘you’re definitely good enough to start at another province or another club and I think you’ve missed your window, you’ve been sitting there too long.’

“It’s a really interesting conversation but if you can’t incentivise with money to move out of home, to move away from a club which has been successful to one that maybe hasn’t been as successful, what do you do? How do you get someone to leave? You can’t just force someone out.”

Luke Fitzgerald today launched Pfizer’s #TodayIsBetter campaign, which gives those with chronic pain a chance to have their say on what would help them have a better day.

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