Andy Farrell spoke of his delight for Joey Carbery ahead of his return from long-term injury for Munster tonight but has warned of the need for patience to allow the fly-half to ease back into top-level rugby.
Carbery, 25, was named as a replacement by Munster head coach Johann van Graan for this evening’s Guinness PRO14 visit to Cardiff Blues, marking his first selection in a matchday squad in almost 14 months.
The fly-half half managed just two games for his province last season, both in January 2020, and has not been involved in Test rugby since the 2019 World Cup quarter-final loss to New Zealand as he has struggled with an ankle injury sustained in a World Cup warm-up match against Italy 18 months ago.
Carbery returned to training with Munster at the end of January and yesterday’s inclusion in the squad travelling to the Arms Park was welcomed by Ireland head coach Farrell as he discussed his own selection for tomorrow’s clash with Italy in Rome.
"First of all, can I just say I'm absolutely delighted for Joey,” Farrell said. "I know first-hand what he's been through over these last couple of years and he has worked so hard to try and get back.
"On a few occasions it's not happened for him and I'd just like to praise all the medical team that's looked after him down at Munster along with the IRFU because we've got him to a place where he's comfortable and super excited about getting back out there on the field.”
With Ireland continuing to rely on Johnny Sexton as their fly-half, he will captain the side at Stadio Olimpico, and the 35-year-old suggesting this week he may not play through the entire cycle to the next World Cup in 2023, Carbery’s return gives hope of an experienced alternative to take Farrell’s squad to France in two years, though the national-team boss urged patience with the exciting playmaker.
"I think what we need to be cautious about is to give Joey the time.
"He's been out for so long, he's so keen to get back in there to do well but I suppose if we give him the room and the time and let him get a number of games under his belt I'm sure Joey will come back to the player that we know he's going to be.”