The Offload: Busy Saturday for the Carty brothers

IRFU adds educational lure to Irish qualified programme; London Irish stun Exeter

Luke Carty lined up against the Akk Blacks on Saturday, something older brother Jack has yet to do in his Ireland career. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

It was a day of contrasting fortunes for Carty brothers, Ireland international Jack and US Eagles’ Luke, who were involved in two high profile matches. Jack was an integral contributor to Connacht’s 36-11 victory over Ulster at the Aviva stadium. Quite apart from an excellent all-round display he chipped in with 11 points.

His brother Luke, five years younger at 24, was playing outhalf for the US Eagles team beaten 104-14 by New Zealand in Landover, Maryland. One of three Irish born players - Paul Mullen from the Aran Island, Inis Mór and Wexford born, Dylan Fawsitt - it proved a long and pretty painful afternoon for the home team.

Not that anyone was expecting a great deal as the USA had lost a two-legged World Cup qualification tussle with Uruguay recently. And that was with a stronger team as six of their best players returned to European clubs. The All Blacks fielded a seconds/thirds side with a few marquee names but still managed to play some scintillating rugby in running in 16 tries, the first after 29 seconds.

A silver lining for the Americans was that they managed to score a first ever try against New Zealand through scrumhalf Nate Augspurger. And as for Luke Carty, well he kicked two conversions and has one up on his older brother in that he has played against New Zealand, something Jack has yet to do.


Irish Qualified Talent Trawl

One name that was missing from the 34-player England squad for November test matches against Tonga, Australia and South Africa was Leicester Tigers centre Dan Kelly. Eddie Jones capped the 20-year-old against Canada last summer, confirming that the former Ireland Under-20 international has decided to play for the country of his birth.

He was a member of the Irish 20s side that won all three matches in the 2020 Six Nations before the tournament was abandoned due to the Covid-19 virus. A student at Loughborough University at the time, the IRFU tried to persuade him to relocate to Ireland but he elected to remain in England.

Having played a year young for Ireland he was eligible again for the Irish 20s this year but at that stage he had agreed a contract with the Leicester Tigers and it’s not unreasonable to assume would have been encouraged by the club to pursue a future with England.

There is no doubt that playing underage for Ireland - a year previously he was deemed not good enough for the Sale Sharks academy - gave Kelly a stage to showcase his skills. Popular with his teammates and coaches alike, he grasped the opportunity and it earned him a pro contract with Leicester. No one should begrudge him his choice.

Kelly’s centre partner in that Irish team Hayden Hyde left the Ulster academy to rejoin the Harlequins academy. The Coronavirus pandemic has been a very challenging period for the IRFU’s IQ (Irish Qualified) talent trawl in Britain under the guidance of Joe Lydon, when there was precious little rugby played.

Perhaps the key for the IRFU in persuading young players with Irish heritage to wear a green shirt is to tie up university places in any putative deal that sees them relocating to Ireland; giving them the double benefit of rugby and an education. Leinster’s Aaron O’Sullivan - the former Wasps academy prospect is studying at UCD - who is with the Ireland Sevens at the moment is an example of offering the twin strands.

England will continue to aggressively ‘capture’ as it is known, dual qualified players, especially with the English RFU’s director of performance rugby, Conor O’Shea’s network of contacts.

As for Kelly, hopefully he won’t like several dual qualified players before him discover that the grass is indeed greener on the other side of the Irish Sea.

Five-star London Irish

London Irish won their first match in the English Premiership since last March with a superb five-try, 33-21 victory over the Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park. The Exiles had drawn two of their five matches in the current campaign and picked up four bonus points along the way but finally managed to marry performance with an end product on the scoreboard.

What was also very noticeable was the quality of the rugby they produce; an attacking, enterprising brand under the baton of head coach Les Kiss and director of rugby Declan Kidney that is very easy on the eye. Paddy Jackson was a creative influence but there was no sign of Sean O’Brien in the matchday 23.

Kiss, who worked under Kidney with Ireland, admitted: “I’m immensely proud of each and every one of the players. The coaches too, they’ve really worked hard and stayed strong despite not getting the return we’d have all liked from our opening games. This win is just rewards for that.”

“We made the most of the big moments; we backed ourselves with the ball in hand, as much as we did without the ball in hand. Defensively we were very solid too. We know it’s a big ask to come here and beat Exeter, but we’ve been playing well and we played well again here. The boys got what they deserved.”


1 - A first win in the All Ireland League for the Wicklow women's rugby team with their 12-7 victory over Malone, a momentous and brilliant achievement when considering that they hadn't scored a point and conceded 268 in the first three matches.

Word of Mouth

“It speaks volumes about the support and confidence the club has in its womens’ teams to break with tradition and elect a woman to the role for the first time.” Former interprovincial Amy O’Callaghan speaking after being elected club captain of Portlaoise rugby club, the first time a woman has occupied the role in the club’s history.