Ireland’s half-back hopefuls, Joey Carbery and Kieran Marmion, have been told to forget Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray and to play to their strengths.
Fly-half Carbery, 22, and scrum-half Marmion, 25, will get rare starts at Test level, this Saturday, when Ireland welcome Fiji to the Aviva Stadium.
This is the second of three Guinness Series Tests this month, as Sexton and Murray step aside, following their world-class showing, as a partnership, in last weekend’s record, 38-3 win over South Africa.
Yesterday, skills coach, Richie Murphy, confirmed that Joe Schmidt was likely to send out a rejigged starting XV for the match-up against talented, but tier-two opposition.
Asked whether stepping into the half-backs’ boots added pressure to the incoming nine and 10 or eased it, Murphy replied: “It’s a hard one. I think both of them would be wrong to...they’re two very different players to the other two guys who are in front of them.
“I think, some of the strengths, some of the things that Joey does, he does better than Johnny, and the same in relation to Kieran and Conor. But they’re completely different players; they’ve got different strengths.
“Does it release them? I think, when they come in, they can see the attention to detail and how diligent the other two are, and that’s a really good thing for them to learn. And I think, after that, once they understand what’s involved in running the team, it’s up to them to go out and let their natural game come through, because there’s no point in them going out there thinking they’re Conor and Johnny. It won’t suit their game.”
Murphy said Carbery, who has played most of this season at full-back for Leinster, was being considered an outright 10 by the Ireland management, and the Clontarf man showed his fly-half chops when he replaced Sexton late-on against the Springboks and kicked two difficult conversions.
“They feel that they need to play him there (at full-back). For us, at the moment, we’re looking at him as a 10 and we’re trying to build that background in behind, and through training sessions, so that he feels very comfortable in that position, because we feel he is the next one in behind Johnny, at the moment.”
Two of last Saturday’s replacements, Munster loosehead prop, Dave Kilcoyne, and Leinster second row, James Ryan, both sat out training yesterday, at Carton House having taken bangs, putting their participation against Fiji in doubt, in addition to back-rowers Tommy O’Donnell and Dan Leavy, who are ruled out for this weekend.
Leinster’s Michael Bent was added to the squad, yesterday, as cover for Munster tighthead, John Ryan, who returned to his province for rehab on a calf injury.
“We expect him to be available for next week (for Argentina),” Murphy said of Ryan.
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