Joe Schmidt gave an upbeat assessment on Joey Carbery’s injured ankle following the Ireland fly-half’s worrying withdrawal from the victory over Italy on a medical cart.
Carbery, the head coach’s primary option as back-up to first-choice number 10 Johnny Sexton heading to next month’s World Cup in Japan, was forced out of Ireland’s 29-10 Guinness Summer Series win over the Italians in Dublin on Saturday after 50 minutes.
The Munster fly-half had scored the opening try of six for the national team and kicked two of four conversions but went down awkwardly in a ruck as Ireland defended their line early in the second half.
Yet Schmidt, who returned from a week in New Zealand for a family bereavement in time to take the reins at the Aviva Stadium, delivered some positive news on Carbery’s ankle injury.
“The good news is there's no fracture,” Schmidt said “It's a bit puffy on the inside of his left ankle.
We'll give it 24 to 48 hours for the swelling to go down. He's been cleared of a fracture so that's the good news on Joey. We don't have anyone else who's a major concern.
“We're hopefully relatively unscathed but Joey it will take 24 to 48 hours to know for sure.”
Of Carbery’s performance as a starting Test fly-half, Schmidt added: “I was really happy with Joey's performance.
“Defensively he got himself into the right places, and that's a challenge sometimes. I thought he ran the game very well, the variety of his kicking game and running game. He is a danger with the ball.
“But he almost got through the line a couple of times. I thought as a package Joey's game was really tidy. He wouldn't be the same player as Johnny, and he's still building his game.”
Schmidt also praised Carbery’s Munster team-mate Chris Farrell who switched from his customary position at outside centre to the inside midfield berth and displayed his versatility over 80 minutes.
“I think he took a step toward it. It's something that we know all three of the other centres can do. Garry Ringrose started his first Test as a 12, and coming off the bench before he's shifted into 12. Bundee (Aki) has played a lot of 12, and Robbie (Henshaw) too. And at the same time those three players can play 13.
“So we want to make sure that three or four centres, however we carve it up, with Garry able to play on the wing as well.
“So it's just keeping our options open a little.”
Ireland play England in their next summer Test at Twickenham on August 24 but will depart next Wednesday for a warm-weather camp in Portugal.
Ireland will also play Wales in Cardiff on August 31 and back in Dublin on September 7 ahead of the opening World Cup pool game against Scotland in Yokohama on September 22.