Schmidt confident Carbery will be fit for World Cup
By Daire Walsh
IN the wake of his side’s Guinness Summer Series triumph against Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt moved to allay fears over Joey Carbery’s involvement at the forthcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan.
On the stroke of 50 minutes, the Athy native was forced off with an ankle injury – making way for Connacht’s Jack Carty at fly-half. Having immediately sent the Munster star for an X-ray, Schmidt was relieved to discover it was a sprain rather than a fracture.
“We’re going to give that 24-48 hours just for the swelling to go down and if we need to get a picture of it, we will. Obviously he’s had an X-ray and been cleared of a fracture. That’s the good news on Joey. We don’t have anyone else who is of major concern,” Schmidt remarked in his post-match press conference.
“First game of the season, there’s a few lung injuries. One particularly that Rhys [Ruddock] suffered, when he got hit quite hard after giving a scoring pass. That he didn’t really get a good luck at, but Joey Carbery certainly enjoyed the end of it.”
Carbery underwent a scan yesterday to assess the full extent of the damage and with initial estimates suggesting a six-week lay-off, he will be in a race against time to be fit for Ireland’s pool stage opener with Scotland on 22 September.
Prior to his withdrawal, the former Ardscoil na Trionoide student had arguably been the game’s outstanding performer. In addition to a superb opening period try, Carbery was a consistent threat in possession – probing to great effect inside the Azzurri half.
In just his sixth start at international level (he picked up his 19th cap overall), Schmidt was thrilled with the contribution made by the 23-year-old.
“I was really happy with Joey’s performance. I thought defensively he got himself into the right places. That’s a challenge sometimes. I thought he ran the game really well. Obviously the variety in his kicking game, his passing game and he is a dangerous runner with the ball.
“Obviously he finished the try with a nice carry on a change-up. He almost got through the line a couple of times. He presents himself as a threat really well, but he links well. I thought as a package, Joey’s game was really tidy.”
Since making his debut in the historic victory over the All Blacks at Soldier’s Field, Chicago in November 2016, Carbery has established himself as a viable alternative to Jonathan Sexton in the number ten shirt.
While Sexton’s place in the team is by no means under threat, his understudy does offer Ireland a different dimension when he does play. Schmidt believes a couple of injury set-backs made it difficult for Carbery to develop the level of cohesion he needs in his game, but feels it can come over time.
“He wouldn’t be the same player as Johnny. He’s still building his game. Unfortunately, he had a few injuries this year which didn’t allow him that real continuity he was looking for in playing at 10, where he wants to play.
“For example, we had a five-metre scrum and we went the short side and he just tried to probably overplay that kicking game where there wasn’t space to get the ball through so close to the line. He’ll be looking at those things over the next few days and looking to build on the back of what he delivered today,” Schmidt added.