Sexton sympathises with Carbery over ‘tough decision’
Lancaster at odds with Schmidt and O’Driscoll over what’s best for Leinster youngster
Joey Carbery must decide if he will remain at Leinster. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
A decision by Joey Carbery on his future is imminent.
Conjecture must be removed and lessons gathered so the next time Leinster are bottle-necked in a certain position – for example, loosehead prop down the tracks – there is painless precedent.
“From his point of view and from everyone’s point of view, I’m sure, the sooner a decision is made the better for everyone involved,” said Johnny Sexton after 55-man Leinster completed a first ever league and cup double.
Sexton understands. No longer the “skinniest-strongest man in world rugby,” according to Brian O’Driscoll (see below), his 6’2-plus” frame has filled out significantly, to ensure the force of Scott Williams’s above the “nipple line” impact no longer guarantees departure.
The Welsh centre’s lip-licking tackle – to be punished more severely at the incoming Junior World Cup – proved ill-advised as Sexton regained equilibrium, despite James Davies tagging his upper back as he fell, to kick to the corner and convert Sean Cronin’s try from the touchline.
Then he went looking for Williams.
Eventually, Carbery was introduced to a fraying battle with time wasting away. He is still only 22, a full two seasons before Sexton got his chance and only when Felipe Contepomi wrecked his knee in Croke Park, but the game has changed much like Sexton’s physique.
Careers are shortening.
Instantly, Carbery attacked, dancing around fellow half-Kiwi Hadleigh Parkes before putting Luke McGrath clear for Jack Conan’s try.
There lay his season, his career, in microcosm.
“It’s not for me to decide,” Sexton continued. “I am obviously a team-mate and a friend, first of all, and he’s competition as well at the same time so I’d be delighted to see him go!
“A joke,” he adds. “Look, he’s got a very tough decision to make, that’s clear. It’s weighed him down I think at times. I’ve felt sorry for him. I’ve tried to help him with his thought process but he’s got a big decision to make and he is very lucky he is surrounded by some good people, and I am sure they will look after his best interests.
“Whatever team he ends up on next year, they will be very lucky to have him. You saw the footwork he did for the try and that’s what he’s capable of.”
Carbery’s agent is Ryan Constable of Esportif but his main adviser is Joey snr, a respected coach in the Leinster system based down in Athy, who was seemingly pictured sitting with his son when Ireland coach Joe Schmidt attempted to direct the outhalf/fullback to Ulster.
The Belfast offer, The Irish Times has learned, was rejected so a 12-month loan to Munster – despite Ian Keatley, JJ Hanrahan, Tyler Bleyendaal and Bill Johnston all under contract next season – is Schmidt’s solution to ensure Sexton’s primary understudy, since Paddy Jackson was fired by the IRFU, starts more than one provincial game at 10 in a World Cup season.
Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster remains in direct conflict with his national counterpart by stating Carbery can reach full potential by staying in Dublin.
“I do think he can,” said Lancaster. “Johnny is not going to play forever. There is a significant [10 year] age difference between the two of them. Johnny has a couple of years left when I am sure he will be outstanding for us but Joey’s got a huge career in front of him.
“Today was a glimpse of what that career can be. Obviously I love coaching Joey. That’s why I would like him to stay.”
Lancaster and Schmidt appear to have Carbery’s best interests in mind but the latter is focused on Japan 2019 while the former’s view is longer term. Regardless, this tug-o-war places enormous strain on a gifted, young man. That pressure only increased last Friday when Ireland’s most capped and record try scorer emphatically weighed in.
“He has to go,” said O’Driscoll.
There also has to be lessons learned to avoid a reoccurring situation.
“The situation is a little bit complicated,” said Leo Cullen. “We will manage our way through it. Ultimately, it is about doing what the player wants to do and what is best for them.”
There lies a clear contradiction.