By Brendan O’Brien
Stuart Lancaster has added his voice to the chorus calling for Joey Carbery to stay at Leinster.
It was reported last month that the IRFU had approached the province with a view to either Carbery or fellow out-half, Ross Byrne, making the switch to Ulster in order to maximise the playing time of all players in such a crucial position before the 2019 World Cup.
The union has since made it clear that there was no ultimatum delivered, and that they were simply seeking to have discussions with the two players concerned, but it is clear that neither wants a relocation to Belfast.
The focus in the weeks since has centred more on Carbery and whether he will make the switch. Lancaster, the former England head coach and current senior coach with Leinster, is adamant that Dublin suits Carbery’s needs best.
“It's difficult. These things inevitably come up towards the end of the season, which is when the competitions are. Whenever I was in this position or involved with a player who had a decision to make I always tried to say, 'right, what's the best thing for the player?’ Not what's right for this party or that party. What's right for the player'.
“As a consequence, I think Joey has developed brilliantly at Leinster and I think this is where he should stay.”
Carbery’s lack of game time has been put forward as the most pressing need for his change of scenery but the Athy man has banked over 800 minutes for club and country this season despite suffering three injuries in less than a year.
Lancaster (below) was sure to mention as much on Monday afternoon.
Ultimately, however, the Yorkshireman was adamant that the matter would be in no way a distraction for the player, or Leinster as a whole, in a week which will end with them facing Racing 92 in the 2018 Champions Cup decider, in Bilbao.
Racing will be without talismanic scrum-half Maxime Machenaud through injury but the news for Leinster is much brighter in that regard with Luke McGrath having recovered from the ankle injury which forced him out of the semi-final win against Scarlets.
McGrath’s availability frees up Leinster’s hands elsewhere.
European trade laws restrict sides to just three players from New Zealand and Australia in any single matchday squad and that means one of lock/flanker Scott Fardy, scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park and winger James Lowe sitting it out his weekend.
Back row Rhys Ruddock is also in line to feature if he can get through the week’s training after a hamstring injury suffered in the quarter-final win against Saracens while Jordi Murphy is also expected to train fully.
Murphy was withdrawn from the bench from the squad that lost to Connacht in Galway two weekends ago. It was described by the club as precautionary.
Fergus McFadden, however, will play no part. The wing’s season is over due to the hamstring injury suffered while scoring a crucial try against Scarlets in the semi-final.