Young maestro Carbery soaking up all of Sexton’s teachings
‘If I can take half of what he did there and put it in my game then I’ll be improving every day’
Joey Carbery pictured at Carton House in Kildare as Ireland prepare for Saturday’s Six Nations clash against Italy at the Aviva stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Joey Carbery kept a watching brief in Paris. It was initially slated to be a more direct involvement when Jonathan Sexton went down with cramp but the outhalf recovered to deliver the coup de grace in the form of a 42-metre drop goal that salvaged a victory. The 22-year-old Carbery was instructed to ‘keep warm’ but there was no need to break the glass.
His reaction mimicked that of team-mates, management and supporters in the Stade de France, one of delight. “I was ready to go on if needed, but things worked out. It was perfect. You always know he’s [Sexton] going to pull a bit of magic out of the hat.
“It was great to see, the whole reaction after he kicked it, everyone jumping on him. It shows the character in the team really. It’s pretty exciting and hopefully we can keep building on that.”
Carbery appreciated the preamble to the drop goal, the precision of Sexton’s drop out, cross-kick and the way he navigated a path for the team into the French half, before taking on the final challenge.
The two work together at Leinster and Ireland and for Carbery it is a beneficial relationship.
“If you’re competing with the best you’ll have to be better yourself. I’m looking at it that way rather than, ‘not being played’. He’s making me better and I know me being better will make him better as well.
“If you watch the last five minutes [of the game in Paris], if I can take half of what he did there and put it in my game then I’ll be improving every day. He does give me advice, especially when it comes down to kicking and stuff, we have some great duels.
“Then on phase play [he might say] ‘you could have done this better’. So he’s a great person to have [around]; I know I can always go to him if I’ve a question and he’ll give me an honest answer. I can only add certain bits to my game. I’ll never be the same player as Johnny. So if I can take bits from [his] game, add them to mine, then I’ll be learning from him.”
Carbery’s arm injury sustained against Fiji in the November Test series has limited him to just 20 minutes competitive fare – for Leinster in a Champions Cup match against Montpellier – but he’s been sharp in training and would relish the chance to start on Saturday against Italy at the Aviva stadium.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt will publicly reveal that decision later in the week but he’s been supportive of Sexton’s understudy. Carbery said: “He’s [Schmidt] just said to go out and do your thing. He has confidence in me, if I am thrown in there, to keep control. That’s given me a lot of confidence as well, knowing he’s got my back.”
All he needs now is the opportunity, whether that comes in a starting role or a substantial chunk in the second half of the game on Saturday, he’s happy that the work he’s doing in training is more than adequate.
“We train at such a high intensity it does prepare you really well for games. Obviously game time, you can’t really create, but our training is probably as close as you can get to it.
“Training-wise anyway, I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve done a lot of it. I’m feeling pretty healthy, pretty ready. I only had 20 minutes against Montpellier, but I’ll hopefully get more over the next few months and I should be fine.”
He smiles when it is pointed out that he has been supplanted by Jordan Larmour as the ‘golden boy’ in Irish rugby.
“It’s great to see him tear it up, because he scored a few great tries and really helped Leinster in the Pro14 and played really well in the Champions Cup as well. It’s great to have him in here [Irish camp] as well.
“I get on really well with him. He always brings a bit of energy to training or a game. He’s a great player to have running outside you.”
So would he be ready to go on Saturday if chosen? “I reckon he’s got the mental strength anyway. He’s obviously got the ability. I think he’d be very good at whatever level he plays at.”
There’s a pair of them in it from that perspective.