Joey ready for centre stage

Joey Carbery has told Joe Schmidt he’s ready to do a job in midfield.
Joey ready for centre stage

The Leinster star has frequently stated his preference is to play at out-half, the position in which he so impressed former All Black coach Graham Henry, who said Leinster should build their team around him.

But finding game time in that position has been hard, with Johnny Sexton the clear first choice, and Ross Byrne enjoying plenty of opportunities as his back up.

Carbery has started at full-back more often than any other position since making his breakthrough early last season, as a creative, line-breaking No 10.

Following his Ireland debut in the historic victory over New Zealand in Chicago,

injuries have hit hard, and restricted Carbery’s time on the pitch.

He has played just 481 minutes with Leinster this season, and has made just three starts. None of those starts came wearing the No 10 shirt.

For Ireland, he has made just two starts in a year — against the USA and Fiji, and he played just 34 minutes against Italy and Wales in this year’s Six Nations.

Given such limited opportunities and game time, it’s perhaps no surprise he’s put his hand up to play centre.

“I’ve done a bit of reps in training at 12,” Carbery said. “I suppose if it’s going to get me game time, I’d be happy playing. I can kind of play as a 12, look at Matt Giteau playing at 12, he was almost like a second 10 so it’s exciting if Joe [Schmidt] was to throw me in at 12, I’d probably relish it, I’d enjoy it.

“I’d say having a 12 like that playing outside the 10 would probably help a lot, being able to make calls and being able to take pressure off the 10 as well.”

Carbery has frequently stated his preference to play at out-half, but impressed at full-back when Rob Kearney was injured last season.

He delivered a man of the match performance against Wasps in the Champions Cup quarter-final, and has been retained in that position this season.

The 22-year-old could be forgiven for being frustrated at playing out of position, but instead he says he has learned from the role, spotting vulnerabilities in opposition out halves while also learning how vulnerable full backs can be.

Carbery has spoken of following in Beauden Barrett’s footsteps — the Kiwi No 10 who played full-back early in his career — but will there come a time when he asks for a showdown with Schmidt?

“I suppose if it came to the stage where I wasn’t feeling confident in myself, I would have to have that conversation,” Carbery said.

“At the moment, I’m feeling pretty good and I’m happy with where I am.

“It’s a great environment to be in, and the team is winning as well, so it’s a pretty good place to be.

“I’m feeling good in myself, so there’s no reason to have that conversation.

“I’m getting a good bit of reps in training. Training is intense and as close to a game as it possibly could be. I’m getting a good bit out of being in camp and doing that and training.

“But then again, nothing is the same as a game. I suppose I’ve got to trust the coaches and they’ve got to know best. Joe is happy so I’m doing something right anyway.”

Carbery insists any conversation between him and the Ireland coaching staff is a ‘two-way street’, with Schmidt and Co. open to suggestions from their players.

Yet there’s no doubting his frustration at not playing regularly, and as of Wednesday evening, he was still in the dark as to whether he’d

feature for Leinster against Scarlets this weekend.

“To be honest, I would love a game. I would love to get a full 80 minutes under my belt and keep ticking over,” he said.

“The last full game I would have played would have been back against Glasgow in the Champions Cup. I would love to get some game time but I’ll just have to see what the coaches say really.

“I do need the game-time, but if Joe doesn’t want to release me then he won’t release me. Then again, I’m not too sure what my story is yet for the weekend, so I could be playing.

“At this stage I’m kind of just going off what the coaches are saying.”

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