Ronan O’Gara believes Joey Carbery has the talent to go all the way to the top and he expects that process to start kicking in this evening at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey when the 21-year-old makes his first Ireland start.
Carbery has already shown glimpses he is at home in this environment in the three appearances he has made so far off the bench for Joe Schmidt’s men, starting with his debut when the New Zealand-born player made an impact in that unforgettable 40-29 win over the All Blacks.
O’Gara has been working with the Irish squad over the past fortnight — his role comes to an end this weekend when Girvan Dempsey and Felix Jones come on board for a week at a time for the two tests in Japan — and he has been very impressed by what he has seen across the board, but particularly with Carbery.
“First of all, you have to remember how young he is and how far he has already come. I think he’s the kind of player the more difficult the scenario or picture in front of him the better solution he finds. But he’ll find in test rugby he just has to play the other guys around him.
“It’s probably a big statement, but he could progress along the lines of Beauden Barrett or someone. I suppose it’s a little bit about growing up in New Zealand and being really comfortable on the ball. He gets excited on the ball, while a lot of people panic; he’s the complete opposite, he kicks into turbo mode. I think he has all the attributes.
“His kicking game is strong – we were trying to introduce a spiral with him this week, working on that. The first few struggled and after a certain amount of reps they just flew out there… then the next few wow! His capacity to learn – well it’s not surprising when you have talent at that age and he has the application to get better. He has that in his drawer as well. It’s a case of when you play in Ireland and it’s wet you need that kick, and his restarts are really good. He could add a lot to a team on that alone. He has big levers – the length of his legs, the capacity to kick through the ball. Himself and Garry Ringrose – I haven’t seen much of him but he’s going to be some player.
“I think he’s (Ringer) got a natural frame and that’s just going to get stronger and bigger and I suppose more compact within 24 months but the great thing about is I think he’s a ball player first and he sees space better than a lot of people and he doesn’t mind busting fellas either which is important in the 13 channel.
“But it’s the same with them all. Usually, you can pick out a fella who’s full of himself. There’s none of that here. I think to have the opportunity to see that here every day you kind of go, this team can grow so much because that’s going to be the key for Japan 2019.”
Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale will become the latest to be capped this evening when he starts on the left wing but by the close of business at Red Bull Arena there should also be debuts off the bench for Dave Heffernan, Andrew Porter, James Ryan and Rory Scannell.
The USA are very much unknown and understrength for this evening despite former Connacht out-half AJ MacGinty pulling the strings, while Paddy Ryan could make his debut for his adopted country.
The Cork man, who is with Newcastle Falcons, qualifies to play as his mother is American. Five years ago his older brother Dave was also called into the Eagles squad but was unable to take up the offer as he was committed to playing in Italy. The crowd is expected to be close to the capacity of just over 25,000 for the game, although tickets priced from $40 to $187 are still on sale for a game which will go out live on NBC.
Ireland got their first glimpse of the match venue when they staged their captain’s run there yesterday morning in warm sunshine, with no injury worries to report as they bid to make it nine wins from nine against the Americans. The US are using this and next weekend’s clash with Georgia as warm-up games for their two crunch World Cup qualifiers against Canada.
O’Gara has enjoyed his spell with the side he represented 128 times and while he will soon return to Racing 92, he keeps in touch with Schmidt.
He even rolled back the clock — the photo on the front of yesterday’s Examiner said it all — and mucked it to make up the numbers.
“There was an opportunity to fill in (in training) because there was a back or two down on the US team, I haven’t done it in a while, but I thought I’d be worse this morning, but it’s okay. I kicked on Wednesday and I was in bits after kicking with them because I don’t kick either any more.
“This week, to be fair, the coach team is so organised. They know exactly what they want to do in every area of the pitch, who’s doing what. I’m not doing any coaching, I’m watching basically, giving my input if I see something,” added O’Gara.
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