Jack Crowley, Harry Byrne, and Jake Flannery.
The42 Rugby Weekly

'The problem is the backlog... Some of these lads should be moved on loan'

Bernard Jackman put forward his theory on Ireland’s succession planning at out-half.

WITH JOHNNY SEXTON suffering a head injury in last weekend’s Six Nations loss to Wales, there has once again been much talk about Ireland’s succession planning at out-half in recent days.

The 35-year-old can’t play on forever but with Joey Carbery having been sidelined with injury since 2019, it remains unclear who Andy Farrell will back as next in line.

Billy Burns came off the bench in Cardiff last weekend, while Ross Byrne is also part of the Ireland squad, but the issue of opportunities for younger Irish out-halves cropped up on today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly.

Former Grenoble and Dragons coach Bernard Jackman believes that Irish rugby needs to find ways to get more of its young talent onto the pitch regularly, providing promising players with the opportunity to learn and improve.

With a bottleneck for game time in the provinces, Jackman feels the IRFU should be open to younger players making short-term moves abroad.

“It’s a strange one because we actually have lots of 10s,” said Bernard. “Billy Burns is very good for Ulster, Jack Carty is very good for Connacht, Ian Madigan is a proven campaigner at out-half and has played international rugby. 

“Munster’s best option, Joey Carbery, has been injured. They have JJ Hanrahan, who is probably a bit behind the others, to be honest, and then you’ve got three young 10s in Jake Flannery, Ben Healy, and Jack Crowley.

“Leinster have Ross Byrne – we know what he can do and he probably deserves a shot with a better set-up around him. It would be great for him to have a chance with a plan. The games against England that he has played, no one seemed to know what they were doing and the pack was beaten up. It all came back onto him so I think he has been harshly judged on what we’ve seen in the green jersey.

“Then there’s Harry Byrne,  who looks great but hasn’t played European Cup yet and would have played except he hurt his back in December.

“So we have lots of bodies, loads of players but the problem is the backlog. I think some of these lads should be moved on loan for a period elsewhere.

robbie-henshaw-and-ben-healy Ben Healy has broken through in Munster this season. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“Look at Thomas Ramos with France, who plays fullback for Toulouse – he spent a full year with Colomiers where he played every week, kicked goals, and it was a big part of his development because he was blocked by the likes of Médard, Huget, etc. Now he is back in Toulouse and a key part of that backline.

“We know that Ronan O’Gara spoke to Jack Crowley about coming to La Rochelle and Crowley decided to stay but why can’t that decision become less of a conflict? I’m sure Crowley felt that ‘if I leave Munster, I’ll never come back’ but why can’t that decision be done between Crowley, Munster, the IRFU, and La Rochelle.

“There’s Joey in Munster to come back, JJ has apparently signed a new contract, Ben Healy has got first run at it and earned the right to be third-choice, for example, but could we find opportunities for Crowley and Flannery, even for three months, to go somewhere and play every week?

“I think the IRFU have got it really wrong in terms of the David Nucifora player movement policy in that it’s always conflict between two provinces. If you’re Leo Cullen and they’re asking to move a player to Connacht, for example, of course Cullen is going to say no because he might not get the player back.

“I’m in a couple of WhatsApp groups with coaches and every Monday morning, someone is looking for a player, even in Covid times where there are loads of players looking for jobs. Every Monday morning, someone has an injury crisis and they need a player for a month, three months, whatever. 

“Wouldn’t it be great if they had someone in Ireland they could ring and ask because Irish players are well-respected across the UK and France, then there could be a discussion with Leo Cullen, Johann van Graan, Andy Friend, or Dan McFarland and someone in their squad a little further down the depth chart who could become a player for that province in the future was maybe moved for a little while. 

“Suddenly, we would have a far bigger depth chart in certain positions.

“For youngsters to go and spend some time away playing in France or England for a block – even with an obligation that they could go back to their province if there was an injury crisis – you have a better chance of really testing those guys.

“At the moment, we’re not 100% sure about Harry Byrne, Flannery, Healy, Crowley – just to name four – and it would be great to see them play more.”

Elsewhere on today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly, Bernard, Gavan Casey and Murray Kinsella discussed the debate around Sexton’s head injury, Billy Burns and Ireland errors, online abuse of players, and Fabien Galthié’s France.

You can listen to The42 Rugby Weekly below or on your favourite podcast app.

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey preview Ireland-France and give their thoughts on an eventful week from Cardiff onwards:

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

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