Loss of Carbery leaves door slightly ajar for bright new generation of Munster 10s

The Athy man will sit out an indeterminable amount of time to recover from his ankle issue.Munster have a wealth of homegrown, but raw, options.

Healy, Flannery and Crowley will hope to earn their Munster stripes in the season ahead.
Healy, Flannery and Crowley will hope to earn their Munster stripes in the season ahead.

YOU KNOW RUGBY’S back because injury news has once again been thick on the ground in recent weeks.

Talk of surgeries, extended lay-offs and painful training ground twists probably shouldn’t feel so much like the regular rhythm of a season, but it has all returned and we zip  ourselves into it like the big coat that has been hanging up since March.

Ulster have lost Robert Baloucoune for many months ahead, Iain Henderson and James Ryan have signed up for surgery before the international window rolls around. Yet the latest update on Joey Carbery’s was the most jarring one.

Something about the word ‘indefinite’ about a player’s recovery timeline leaves a pit in the stomach. And yet, as rugby players will soon start telling us regularly again, injury is ‘just a part of the game’ and as one man is left sidelined, another is called forth.

For Munster, the loss of Carbery’s solidifies JJ Hanrahan’s position as the senior out-half and the southern province will hope he continues progressing and maturing along the curve he set during the first half of this patchwork season.

The places beneath him in the depth chart is crammed with tenacious and talented youth. They are raw, they may not be ready for senior rugby at the business end of the season when titles are on the line, but they are seriously exciting prospects. 2020 is a fine year to usher in the next decade’s men.

Ben Healy would appear to lead the chasing pack behind Hanrahan having already tasted Champions Cup experience. The Tipperary man proved himself capable of picking defensive locks with a deft array of passes during his run with the Ireland U20s last year. Jake Flannery was in the same crop and his kicking abilities have brought coaches to play him both at 10 and 15.

This year’s Munster star in the Ireland U20 setup was Jack Crowley. The Bandon man was an exhilarating watch during the opening three rounds of the age grade Six Nations, showing not only an eye for a break as a running threat and a range of kicking skills, but also a fiery big-match temperament when it came to the impressive win away to England last time out.

The length of time Carbery is to be stood down for will determine whether Munster get dispensation from the IRFU to call in another experienced head alongside Hanrahan. However, with the union’s funds stretched tight, with Bill Johnston in Ulster and Conor Fitzgerald in Connacht, perhaps now is the time for Munster to stick with the young talent already in red.

“All options will remain on the table,” Johann van Graan said in a virtual press conference yesterday.

“As always, we’ll look to fill within first and then we’ll be in constant communication with David (Nucifora) as to the future but in terms of what’s coming short term, we’re really excited to look at what we have.

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jj-hanrahan-misses-a-conversion Hanrahan kicking a conversion earlier this year. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“We’ve also Rory Scannell, he has played at 10 for Munster before and he was on the bench for the Champions Cup. So (it’s about) finding the balance in the coming months… an incredibly long season coming up and all rugby squads across Europe specifically will be tested in their depth.”

On that elongated season ahead, Van Graan added:

‘We’re looking at it is as a brilliant opportunity. You’ve got to qualify for the (Pro14) semi-final and then you’ve got to make sure you get past the semi-final and that’s something that we haven’t managed to do the last three seasons.

“In terms of expectation, it’s something that we embrace. We as a squad are desperate to take the next step, but you can only play what’s in front of you and at this stage it’s Leinster on Saturday evening and a great, great challenge ahead if you just look at what they have at their disposal.”

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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