Joey Carberry was the hot topic of conversation in Joe Schmidt’s post match press conference following Ireland’s victory over Italy in their World Cup warm-up match at the Aviva Stadium this past Saturday. The Irish playmaker dominated the talk after the game just as he had dominated with his performance on the pitch before his game was cut short due to injury at the 50 minute mark.
The 23 year old Munster out-half was one of the few bright sparks in what ultimately proved to be a relatively underwhelming and scrappy contest in which Ireland ultimately prevailed 26-16 in Dublin. Carberry impressed with his variety of kicking, his defensive contribution and his sizeable addition of nine points to the scoreline, as he managed to score a tri and two conversions. Carberry’s performance will have given Schmidt plenty to ponder ahead of Ireland’s World Cup opener against Scotland on the 22nd of September as he hopes to compete with Johnny Sexton for the 10 shirt in Japan, and with performances like the one he put in against Italy this past weekend, he will certainly provide Schmidt with some difficult, although surely somewhat pleasing, dilemma’s for this year’s World Cup team selection.
Schmidt, like I’m sure any coach would, has been vocal about how highly he values having a squad with top quality strength in depth to work with, in the past, and as the old saying goes, ‘it is a great problem to have’ for the coach of a team when he has multiple world class players competing for just the one place on the pitch. In the past 20 years, Ireland has been blessed with options for the coveted 10 shirt, and the competition between Carberry and Sexton for that position looks very well poised to be the natural successor to the battle of Sexton, himself and Ronan O’Gara for the Irish 10 shirt, and the dilemma of choosing between O’Gara and David Humphreys which preceded that again. It has undoubtedly been a recurring theme for the Irish national theme to have a young, up and coming 10 vying to knock the established, star playmaker of the team from his perch, and if Carberry and Sexton can continue to have the ‘iron sharpening iron’ effect on each other that these selection dilemma’s of the past had on each of the respective players involved in them, it bodes well for the Irish national team, and will be welcomed by all Irish fans.
Carberry cut a dejected figure while being carried off of the pitch, almost unrecognisable compared to the force that he had been on the pitch for the 50 minutes prior to his unfortunate injury when he went over on his ankle while carrying out his defensive duties. Schmidt, however, sounded optimistic in his post match press conference as he revealed that Carberry suffered no fracture, and followed that up, stating that he and his medical staff would now have to wait another 24-48 hours to have a better idea of the extent of the injury to Carberry, before any more can be revealed.
International test matches are always worrying contests before big competitions, and despite the obvious natural desire of the competitors to win any and every contest, the big objective in the back of every coach, player and fan’s mind is always to finish the match as unscathed as they possibly can, and be ready to go into the big games at full strength and a positive to take from the game is that, besides the glaring mark of the Carberry injury, the squad suffered no other major setbacks.
Whatever the true extent of the injury to Carberry, what we know for sure is that he will have exactly 6 weeks to recover and get himself back to full fitness before Ireland kick off their World Cup against Scotland in Yokohama.