Joey Carbery’s performances for Leinster so far this season have gone a long way to proving that one of the academy’s hottest prospects ain’t no one-season-wonder.
On the back of a very impressive full debut season last term, the 21-year-old New Zealand-born back who grew up in Athy has dotted down twice in just four games from full-back this season.
The try in the Guinness PRO14 win against Edinburgh (from 2:04 below) at the end of last month showcased one of his most impressive talents – the ability to contort his body shape so as to dodge whatever large brutes from the opposition pack are attempting to grind him into the dirt.
‘Hope for the smaller, skillful players in the game,’ was the suggestion put to the province's Senior Coach Stuart Lancaster ahead of Saturday’s opening pool clash with Montpellier at the RDS in the European Champions Cup.
“Yea it’s certainly a big part of his game. But also if you look at someone like Garry Ringrose, he’s very, very similar and very elusive. Sometimes size and power isn’t the only thing and having pace and footwork and agility, ability to read opponents.”
“These guys probably aren’t as small as you think as well,” Lancaster was keen to add. “I was speaking to Garry the other day, and Joey, and they’re probably topping 90kg now.
“When they arrived as academy lads, and now a year or two down the line with the full S&C (strength and conditioning) programme behind them, these are big lads who can look after themselves in the big games.”
Carbery was impressive when called upon to fill the Johnny Sexton-shaped hole in several matches last season but it was probably in the games when head coach Leo Cullen gave him the 15 shirt to accommodate Sexton’s return, that really got the supporters excited. Just as Lancaster was last Saturday, watching the Munster clash at the Aviva Stadium.
“The added benefit of Joey is that obviously you’ve got somebody who can play 10 and 15 and so, you look at the way the Munster try evolved (from 2:35 below), the second Rory O’Loughlin try, and with Johnny [Sexton] running the front line and Joey organising the shape out the back.
“You’ve then got Scott Fardy running a great line and Joey putting Rory O’Loughlin away. That’s a great example of how having footballers in your back line can help attack.”
Much has been made this week of moneybags Montpellier and their lavish spending over the summer. Bankrolled by the Syrian-born French billionaire, Mohed Altrad, the Top 14 side brought in superstars like Aaron Cruden, Louis Picamoles and Ruan Pienaar.
In the aftermath of the weekend win against their arch-rivals, the discussion of such spending in France and England led Blues head coach Leo Cullen to wonder aloud, “How do you compete with that?”
Cullen insisted afterwards though that Montpellier’s cash-splashing won’t worry him. Nor does it Lancaster who feels that higher levels of spending do not always translate into success on the pitch.
“Well I think obviously it’s hard to compete financially but I’m not sure it always plays out on the field that way. I think if you look at the Leinster team that we’ll put out, there’ll be a lot of Irish internationals in there, a lot of players who have played in big European Cup, not just wins, but in European Cup finals. So I think we’ve got our fair share of international experience and European experience that sets [us] up well for this game.
“It was the same last year, maybe slightly different, there’s a different French team who’ve recruited in a different way. But I don’t think that rules out any other team, any team from England and Scotland or Wales for that matter.”
But is the man who has an in-depth knowledge of the underage structures across the water, and now in Ireland, convinced as to whether the players rolling off the Leinster conveyor belt at such an impressive rate are of the same quality as the ones bought for big money by the top European clubs.
“Yea I do. I’m not just saying that because I’m coaching Leinster now but having worked in the English academy environment and seeing the quality of players coming through.
“You know, you look at someone like James Ryan is a good example, who’s available for selection this weekend, he was Ireland under-20s captain and he’s going to be a phenomenal player. Andrew Porter, Joey Carbery, the list goes on of players who are coming through the Irish and Leinster system.
“So, I think that sense of identity of playing for your home province is a strong factor as well and I think you put everything together, it makes Leinster a strong proposition as we showed last weekend.”