Joe Schmidt has signalled a much-changed starting line-up for Ireland’s trip to face England at Twickenham in two weeks, but is hoping that injured fly-half Joey Carbery will be back in the mix by then.
Carbery was a second-half casualty in the 29-10 home win over Italy on Saturday, the first of four Tests Ireland will play before heading to Japan for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which starts on September 20.
The Munster fly-half suffered a twisted ankle in the 50th minute at the Aviva Stadium to bring a premature end to what had been a bright and authoritative outing in the Ireland number 10 jersey, having scored a try and two conversions.
Head coach Schmidt was pleased with what he had seen and is optimistic that the injury, sustained when Carbery fell awkwardly under a ruck, will heal in time for his number-two fly-half to be involved against the English.
It was the latest in a series of knocks that have hampered Carbery’s progress since getting extended game time at fly-half following his move from Leinster to Munster last summer.
Schmidt insisted the injury was merely bad luck.
“Yeah, he was reasonably close to the tryline, he got both his arms under and was in a crouched position and he just got hit sideways and kind of got his ankle underneath him,” Schmidt said of the incident that felled Carbery.
“Now that could happen to anyone. Joey has not had the best of luck and sometimes you can have that run.
“You know, Tadhg Furlong had that run for a couple of years where he didn’t play a lot and then he got into a rhythm and he’s fine.
“So hopefully, Joey will get through this ankle injury. Hopefully it’s not too bad and it might only be that he’s off his feet for a week and he’s back training and potentially still in the mix for England. If not for England, the Welsh game after that.
You always worry about injuries in these games, full stop, across the board. It’s so important to have a depth in your squad going to a World Cup. That’s been a bit of a four-year project for us and it’s certainly been a priority in this 12-month window where we’ve tried to aim up at the World Cup.
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.”
Ireland also lost hooker Rob Herring to a back spasm and lock Devin Toner, who limped off after rolling an ankle, although Schmidt was not overly concerned about any of the injuries ahead of the squad’s departure for training in Portugal on Wednesday.
Ireland will fly from the Algarve straight to London for their second warm-up Test, and Schmidt said it will be a very different starting XV to the one that defeated Italy.
“There’ll definitely be a number of changes. I’m not sure there will be 15, but I’d say 10 will be a good starting point, and it could be more.