More game time behind Joey Carbery move to Munster
Mick Dawson says Leinster are ‘extremely disappointed to be losing Joey’
Joey Carbery (second right) with Jack McGrath and Andrew Conway at an Ireland squad session at Carton House yesterday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Unsurprisingly, it was the most difficult decision which the 22-year-old has ever faced in his burgeoning career and one not made easily, but in what he described as a “purely rugby-based decision” the likelier possibility of starting more big games at No 10 was the overriding factor.
“I’ve decided to go down to Munster,” he began by confirming his decision. “It’s been a tough few weeks. My head’s been a bit fried, trying to get all my cards on the table. I’ve had the help of some really good advisors, giving me a bit of confidence, and telling me a few things as well.”
“I’m really excited by the opportunity. It’s obviously extremely tough to be leaving Leinster, and all my friends and all my mates, and I suppose, being comfortable there. But I’m looking forward to the opportunity that’s ahead of me and I feel like a really good thing could come from it. So I’m really excited about it.”
Carbery only came to a decision “properly” on Tuesday morning.
“It’s been within my gut for the last few days but I wanted to be with my family when I made the decision and I wanted them to be the first ones, so I did that just before coming into camp yesterday. I told the Leinster players there and obviously they were disappointed that I was leaving but they knew I’d made the decision for me so they could understand that.”
Although he has played a fair amount of rugby at fullback, all told Carbery mentioned the number 10 seven times in addressing the daily media yesterday, following a season where he only started there once for Leinster, having done so ten times last season.
Asked what were the main draws of joining Munster, he said: “I suppose the game time, getting more of an influence at ‘10’ maybe. That’s the big one, and then I know people down there as well, so that will make my move a bit easier, but just getting to play more regularly is the main one. It’s purely a rugby-based decision. I’m excited for the opportunity.”
That said, the process caused him and his Irish-born, New Zealand-reared father of the same name – himself a ‘10’ cum ‘15’ who played for Northland and coached him until he was 19 – plenty of restless nights.
“Leinster have got me to a stage now where I feel like I’m just about ready. Now I need to go out and develop even more now. I’ll always have a huge part of Leinster in me for that. But I suppose it was all a self-based decision with my dad being my closest advisor.
“I’ve been chatting to him a lot and he’s had a few sleepless nights as well as I have. It’s purely based on the opportunity of playing ‘10’. That’s what it came down to, and going out of my comfort zone I suppose is going to be pretty tricky. It’s going to be tough but I’m a rugby player and I’ve got to concentrate on my rugby.”
He also spoke of learning from Johnny Sexton’s game management, presence, authority and how quickly he sees things.
“Hopefully, with game time and experience, I’m bring that into my game as well.”
The proximity of the World Cup in Japan was also a factor – “by the time the World Cup comes around I want to be at my peak” – although he maintained that Joe Schmidt was merely an advisor after their well-publicised and photographed meeting four weeks ago.
“He wouldn’t have told me what to do. He was more an advisor. I contacted him about meeting up, as I’m sure you guys have seen that picture. It was more just to get his opinion because me and my dad had never gone through anything like this and Joe has been in the professional game for a long enough time that he’d know. So it was good just to get his insight on it.”
A meeting with Johann van Graan also encouraged him to make the move.
“I felt like I connected with him and he seemed like a really honest guy, which I like; someone I can go to, especially if I’m living away. I’m going to need someone who’s a good advisor, who I can trust and just have chats to even not regarding rugby. I felt like he could definitely be that person I could talk to, so I really liked him.”
It’s expected that Carbery will sign a two-year deal with Munster, although the player himself said that was still to be resolved.
“That’s all being ironed out, all I’ve told them is my decision, and that’s what they’re waiting for. That’s all out of my hands. I just wanted to get my decision out there before I got on the plane so that I could have a bit of a clearer head I suppose.”
Carbery has effectively been in the Leinster system since his dad and mother Amanda relocated to Athy, where she hails from, when he was 11. He played with the Athy underage sides from under-12s to under-19s, and doing his final school year at Blackrock College, before playing for Clontarf and UCD, while being fast-tracked through the Leinster academy.
During the last few weeks, many Leinster team-mates had advised him to stay, as had Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster, who weren’t shy about publicly declaring their desire for Carbery to remain within their set-up. Unsurprisingly therefore, the province’s CEO Mick Dawson said that “Leinster are extremely disappointed to be losing Joey”.