Stuart Lancaster has joined the public chorus of voices calling for Joey Carbery to stay at Leinster.
Carbery’s future, and that of fellow out-half, Ross Byrne, have been the focus of speculation and debate in the weeks since it was revealed that the IRFU have been angling for one or the other to make the switch north to Ulster.
Joe Schmidt’s motives are understandable, keen as he is to avoid a repeat of the 2015 World Cup, when Jonathan Sexton was injured and Ian Madigan had to step in as understudy, with next to no game time banked with his club, at ten, the previous season.
If only it were that simple.
Lancaster, senior coach with Leinster, was adamant, yesterday, that Dublin rather than Belfast is the best location for the Athy man, going forward. The former England boss was keen to make the point that the final call must lie with the player.
“I’ve been involved in this sort of situation quite a few times in England, in my role, not just as an England coach, but also in charge of the academies. Often, you’ll get a situation where, maybe, a player is sat and there’s a decision to make.
“Is this the right thing to do? Is it right to go to an U20 World Cup? Is it right to have an off-season? My view has always been, and still is, you do what’s right for the player. You put the player at the centre of the decision,” Lancaster said.
He added that Carbery would have played more for the province this season had he not suffered ankle and arm injuries and he pointed to All Black, Beauden Barrett, as an example of a player who has flourished while splitting time between out-half and full-back.
Ultimately, all that will be for another day and Lancaster was adamant that the debate would not be a distraction for either player or organisation, as they prepare for Saturday’s Champions Cup final against Racing 92, in Bilbao.
Scrum-half, Luke McGrath, injured for the semi-final win against Scarlets last month, has recovered from his ankle problem and is expected to train.
The Ireland international’s availability is significant for more than just his own talents.
With Leinster restricted by EU laws to the use of just two players from New Zealand and Australia, they must choose between lock/flanker, Scott Fardy, scrum-half, Jamison Gibson-Park, and wing, James Lowe, for places in their 23.
Jordi Murphy and Rhys Ruddock are both in the frame for the weekend, after recent injury concerns, which is encouraging, given the club’s casualty list in the back row, although wing, Fergus McFadden, is out for the season with a hamstring problem suffered in the semi-final.
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