Carty's Ireland chances and the catch technique that made Haley's wonder-try possible

The Munster fullback’s landing was something Eoin Toolan works on every day with his Kintetsu Liners players.

Mike Haley collects a high ball against Connacht.
Mike Haley collects a high ball against Connacht.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

AMID ALL THE furore around succession planning and Ireland’s replacement — or indeed starting — out-half during the early weeks of the Six Nations, Connacht fans could have felt rightly aggrieved that there seemed to be more of a clamour to draft in a 21-year-old with a grand total of 18 minutes’ Champions Cup experience to his name than the western province’s starting out-half, who has well and truly bounced back from his lull in form following the World Cup.

Jack Carty is yet to feature under Andy Farrell despite inclusion in Ireland’s squad for the latter half of the Six Nations in the autumn, and sometimes feels like an almost forgotten man outside of his own province despite arguably being the best out-half in the country at club level this season.

His international ostracisation — as well as the Ireland prospects of lack thereof of Caolin Blade, who on the night outshone recent debutant Craig Casey at Thomond Park even in a narrow defeat — were among the topics discussed by Kintetsu Liners assistant coach and head of analysis Eoin Toolan and The42′s own Gavan Casey on today’s Rugby Weekly Extra, an analysis podcast available to members of The42 every Monday.

craig-casey-tackles-jack-carty Craig Casey attempts to tackle Jack Carty. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

On Carty specifically, former Ireland performance analyst Toolan said: “There’s a lot to like about the attacking side of his game. He has a great feel for space and is able to identify it with his boot; I think, particularly, that lovely little short kick in the second half for the Connacht centre to latch on and then Caolin Blade gets on the ball and Carty connects with him; he’s continued that run upfield after the attacking kick. I think that was a great moment for him.

“There are defensive issues at times where he definitely gets targeted but that’s not unusual, for opposition to target the 10.

“It’s probably just the consistency of his game control — particularly those more tactical kicking battles.

I think he has good moments but then, possibly, goes quiet in games. I think of the big win they had over Leinster in the RDS where Carty was brilliant and then, the following week, they lost to Ulster at the Sportsground and he had one of his quieter games.

“So, it’s about consistently backing up performances — particularly in the interprovincial games and when you get to Europe. The 10 is one of the positions where you’re under more scrutiny and any mistakes are probably magnified.

“I think he definitely gives Ireland a different look to, say, a Ross Byrne, particularly coming off the bench. I think he could add some value. But it’s about being consistent in your goal-kicking, your tactical kicking, and while his attacking kicking is definitely a weapon, he probably needs to gain a little bit more consistency in those other areas.”

On the opposite side of the ball last Friday night was a man whose consistency can no longer be questioned: Munster fullback Mike Haley has been one of the southern province’s standout performers all season, and his moment of magic was ultimately decisive in booking his side a place in this season’s showpiece as they held off Connacht in Limerick.

And while Toolan was suitably impressed by Haley’s left-footed chip and chase past Tiernan O’Halloran before he dotted down, it was a more subtle piece of skill earlier in the lead-up to the score which impressed him most.

“The brilliant bit from Haley is when he catches it and lands square,” Toolan explained. “It’s something I try to work on with the guys over here (at Kintetsu Liners): you don’t want to rotate in the air and have your back to the try-line; you want to catch and land square which gives you the ability to obviously go forward straight away.”

Gavan then asked: “When you’re coaching somebody to land square after catching a ball, is it a case of literally having to do it over and over again until it becomes natural to them or are there any little technical things in the jump or in the air that help a player to land square?”

“We use a turtle at training every day,” Toolan replied, referring to a high-ball catch pad which is worn on a player’s back to protect them beneath the jumping kick receiver in training drills.

“We really focus on their line into the ball, a little bit of a ‘J’ line, and then their knee position; you want their knee driving into any opponent that might be challenging in the air to try and win that collision. And then, as you land, you’re landing with that knee on the 45 [-degree angle] which leaves you in a good position to keep that forward momentum.”

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Screenshot (50) A 'turtle' high-catch pad by R80 in New Zealand.

“As you see it, a lot of guys will end up almost in a ‘C’ shape,” Toolan continued. “So, as they catch, they’ll start to turn almost in a ‘C’ motion with their chest facing their own try-line and their back facing the opposition try-line. And it’s just a great cue for players when you go: ‘if your back is facing their try-line, how do you expect to score?’

“So, it’s something to work on daily with the guys and it starts to be built into their habits.

“The turtle is a great little tool. It’s not so much fun for the guy who has it on his back! It’s like an oversized schoolbag on someone’s back that 100-kilo guys are jumping on top of, so it takes a bit of technique to learn how to use the turtle correctly. A few guys have definitely faceplanted off the back of some of those high-ball catches.”

As well as looking back on Munster’s victory over Connacht and Leinster’s tumultuous win over 14-man Ulster at Ravenhill, Gavan and Eoin Toolan also cast their eyes towards Murrayfield this weekend and discussed how Ireland might best get at the improved Scots.

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