Guinness PRO14 - Leinster v Scarlets
The Leinster back has bagged less than an hour of rugby since fracturing a wrist against Fiji last November. Twenty-two minutes off the bench for his club away to Montpellier in January and a half-hour or so for Ireland against Italy last weekend has been his lot.
Leo Cullen is able to welcome back Sean Cronin, Jordi Murphy, Luke McGrath and Jordan Larmour from Ireland duties for this Scarlets visit but Carbery has been deemed indispensable to Six Nations requirements through the down week.
“It’s difficult. I don’t know the full ins and outs but they want guys to be able to train properly over the last few days,” said Cullen. “They were in camp Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and Joey is such a key part of what they are doing in swapping between 10 and 15.
“That gives him a chance to get some work done and that is obviously the call that was made. It was good that he got off the bench at the weekend. He got a good 30 minutes against Italy and I thought it was a good experience for him.”
Cullen pointed out that immersion in an intense Six Nations environment would only aid his player’s development and was relaxed enough to joke how he hadn’t seen all that much of Carbery these last few weeks.
A sizeable chunk of yesterday’s press conference ahead of a game between sides at the top of Conference B was bitten off covering players’ whereabouts and/or well-being and word on Garry Ringrose was of particularl interest.
The centre hasn’t played for Leinster since the start of January, and his last Ireland appearance came in Japan last summer, but Joe Schmidt wasn’t ruling him out of contention for a role against Wales next Saturday.
Ringrose only returned to club training on Thursday and, though he trained again yesterday, and “looked good” according to Cullen, it would be asking a lot of the player to slot back in.
“It is difficult, of course, but Garry has been there before ,” said Cullen. “And he is such a quality player that he will be well up for the challenge.”
Sean O’Brien is all but certain to miss the February 24 meeting with Warren Gatland’s side. Recovery from his hip problem has taken longer than expected and though he trained by himself this week, the flanker may still be a few weeks away from game-time.
There was no update, meanwhile, on Jamie Heaslip’s progress while Isa Nacewa is being “managed”.
Add in long-term injuries suffered on Ireland duty by Josh van der Flier and Robbie Henshaw and Cullen has plenty to keep him occupied.
In Scarlets today they face a side with similar issues, with ten Wales players having started against England .
Warren Gatland has chosen to release only Ryan Elias and James Davies for a game in which the performance of Munster-bound Tadhg Beirne in the visitors’ back row will be of particular interest.
J Larmour; A Byrne, R O’Loughlin, N Reid, J Lowe; R Byrne, L McGrath; E Byrne, S Cronin, M Bent; R Molony, S Fardy; Josh Murphy, Jordi Murphy, M Deegan.
J McNicholl; T Prydie, P Asquith, S Hughes, I Nicholas; D Jones, J Evans; D Evans, R Elias, W Kruger; S Cummins, D Bulbring; T Beirne, J Davies, J Macleod.
J Lacey (IRFU).