Isa Nacewa says Joey Carbery has proven himself capable of leading Leinster — but warned Johnny Sexton would not welcome any attempts to force him into a period of rest.
The Ireland and Leinster no.10 has struggled for fitness this season, with hamstring injuries curtailing his game time for club and country.
His absences have boosted Carbery’s stock, with the 21-year-old showing his class in 12 appearances this season already, making his European debut last month, as well as winning his first three international caps, against New Zealand, Canada and Australia.
Nacewa declared the youngster an ‘exciting’ talent, but does not believe Sexton would be keen on taking time out of the game, as suggested by Joe Schmidt at the weekend.
“Johnny struggles to let six days go by, or six hours without kicking a ball or thinking about rugby,” Nacewa laughed. “He’s been so dedicated since his surgery in the summer to Leinster Rugby. it’s been great to have him around.”
Leinster hope to have Sexton available for next week’s Champions Cup meeting with Northampton Saints, but they’re well stocked if he’s not passed fit to play.
Carbery has featured in seven Guinness Pro12 games already, and played twice in the Champions Cup.
“He’s already led us,” Nacewa said. “He led us against Castres, came on against Montpellier. He has the highest experience in international rugby already, and that’s all in the last three months.
“I’ve no issue with Joey stepping in.He’s already proved he can lead in our squad.
“We’ve got some tough characters in our squad and quite a lot of senior players, Joey has slipped in seamlessly and taken on a leadership responsibility. He does it in games and, more importantly, he does it in training throughout the week. It’s exciting to play with him.”
Nacewa says the former Clontarf kid is ‘as vocal as he needs to be’, when he needs to be, and believes experience can sometimes be overrated.
“A lot of the time he just backs his actions, and we saw that against Castres here, his ability to make something out of nothing,” he said. “The guys around him help him out, but when he needs to lead he just takes control and does it.
“It’s more about taking the opportunity and he’s taken his opportunity. He knows when he has to lead, when he can sit back, the beauty about it is he’s moved so far in the last five months, from being an academy player to being on the bench in Chicago for Ireland and getting capped, it’s pretty exciting, for himself, but even exciting to play with him and be around him.”
Nacewa says a pecking order keeps Carbery away from the place-kicking duties so far this season, but admitted the 21-year-old is itching to take control of the tee.
“We do what’s right for the team come game-day,” he said. “He can’t wait to goal-kick, and if he’s the right guy to kick on the day he’s happy to do it, but he’s ready to step up.
“I think the coaches think he can already, he goal-kicked perfectly against Glasgow in trying conditions over there. Two of the toughest kicks in Scotstoun, from the sideline, so, he’s kicked in those type of games, but we’ll always put the team first on game day.”
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