It’s rare now I get an instant buzz from something that’s not on a pitch in front of me, but such was the sensation, even in a different hemisphere, when Joey Carbery confirmed his career direction yesterday.
What other signature could change the mood so radically and dramatically for three provinces?
There’s been an unusual amount of doom and gloom around Munster in recent times, but with one signature, that seems to have vanished if the text reactions I’ve been getting are anything to go by.
God knows where Munster could end up now. Joey has the attributes to be a serious world level player and an awful lot of time ahead of him to achieve that status.
From the time he was a standout in the All-Ireland League to now, there has been no indication of his graph reaching a plateau. How would it, with the limited game time he’s been exposed to at the business end of professional and test rugby?
Johnny Sexton is a world-class presence and this guy is learning from him. There’s stuff Johnny can do that Joey can’t, but the opposite is true as well.
Study his breaks in the PRO14 final when he came on against Scarlets, his shuffle from left to right to stand a guy up — absolutely wonderful to observe if you want to get into the nitty gritty of his rugby skillset.
The most intriguing aspect of the Carbery conversation now is the alignment of his talents with Munster’s game plan under Johann van Graan. Where Joey Carbery is at his best is when he has a lot of the ball.
Munster has had a lot of coaches in a short space of time but the shift towards a pressure game is evident. Clearly they get a great spike from playing that type of rugby.
That means a lot of kicking, which in turn means their phase game and skill levels haven’t been put under pressure and haven’t developed sufficiently.
When the heat came on in the PRO 14 semi at the RDS, how many errors did that backline commit in possession? Was it five forward passes?
If you want to see the best of Joey Carbery, Munster needs to get him on the ball as often as they can, and that means van Graan and his staff must develop a game plan that is different to what they are about at the moment.
Munster kick the ball in the air and they pressure opposition. That’s seeing the best of Conor Murray — it’s not seeing the best of the 10.
It’s not like they throw the pressure game in the dumpster. It’s in the locker for when it’s required. But they need to add a few layers of a phase game, playing off 10 and not nine.
Carbery will be well able to do all his basics, but the game plan he is orchestrating has to evolve.
The fact that he’s Athy too, and not from the heart of Dublin, also makes the transition that bit easier. He will get the Munster thing. It hasn’t been officially confirmed yet, but if he is with Munster for two seasons (at least), it gives them the chance to create an environment to keep him for good.
A one-year deal just wouldn’t work for either party.
Carbery has to be 100% rugby-focused, and the reality is that both he and Munster would already be turning their minds towards the next year come November-December had the agreement been just for one season.
It’s easy to forget just how young he is, and that he has a decade, and maybe more, left at the top. Knowing the fella involved, knowing the Munster supporters and knowing the way Joey plays, you could be looking at a lovely relationship.
You only have to go back to last November against Fiji, the day he broke his wrist ironically, to see conclusive evidence of what he brings to the 10 slot — his bravery at the line that day, his capacity to ghost through gaps. The No 10 jersey for Ireland isn’t used to doing that.
One player, and a young one remember, won’t be expected to elevate Munster on his own, but immediately his decision changes the mood levels and the confidence.
Now Munster players are thinking. ‘Let’s have a good September and build it nicely from there’.
There’s seldom been a more brutal example of the contrasting emotions to victory and defeat as there is in this difficult situation.
Clearly Leinster aren’t pleased. Stuart Lancaster has mentioned on several occasions how highly he rates Carbery, and Leo Cullen and his management will be privately fuming.
Chief among their concerns will be: If Carbery settles well in Munster, how the hell do we pull him back out of the province?
And that has to be Munster’s goal, to ensure that this guy has the best 10 years possible in red.
It’s not only a coup for the dressing room, but also for Brand Munster, to advertise the fact globally that they remain a big draw for a big talent.
For Ulster, the nightmare goes on. Though Carbery’s decision is strictly professional, the optics are less benevolent, with the player unwilling to travel north but happy to move south.
Ulster still need an out-half and Munster now has five of them. Maybe the IRFU flexes its muscles at this point and dictates one of them travels west or north for next season?
Either way, Munster is out of excuses now. The options provided by Carbery with, perhaps, a Tyler Bleyendaal, add an entirely different dimension to what they can and can’t do.
Let’s not be fooled, the reality is that Carbery plays when he’s available. If Tyler recovers from his serious neck injury and regains his best form, Carbery is still going to be in the team somewhere else.
Van Graan has some time to mull over that. Once Joey’s down there, Munster can look at juggling their options.
Getting him there was the hard part.
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