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Monday 18 December 2017

Joe's roll of dice gives young guns a chance

Leinster and Ireland lose ace card Carbery until the New Year

Joey Carbery of Ireland receives treatment during the Guinness Series International against Fiji at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile
Joey Carbery of Ireland receives treatment during the Guinness Series International against Fiji at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt was willing to suffer failure to Fiji to see what he really has on his hands.

That is how important the 2019 Rugby World Cup is to a man who hates losing more than almost anything else.

"We wanted to back them as well," he said.

"We wanted to be able to say to those young players, 'We back you. We feel that you can go out and get this job done'.

"Yes, there was always an element of risk in that," he said.

"Looking back, would you do the same thing? You probably would."

The fast start, yielding three tries for wings Darren Sweetnam and Dave Kearney and No 8 Jack Conan did not have Ireland on easy street, although they were getting there.

Then, that man Nemani Nadolo got in on the action to cause consternation.

Ireland were rocked by a converted try by Fiji scrum-half Henry Soniloli.

Confidence

"You just hope you wouldn't concede that try before half-time and you would go in 17-3 and keep that confidence going into the second-half," rued Schmidt.

Nemani Nadolo of Fiji is tackled by (l-r) Stuart McCloskey, Joey Carbery and Kieran Marmion of Ireland during the Guinness Series match at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile
Nemani Nadolo of Fiji is tackled by (l-r) Stuart McCloskey, Joey Carbery and Kieran Marmion of Ireland during the Guinness Series match at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile

When right wing Timoci Nagusa pounced on the far side of the break, for what was effectively 14 points in five game minutes, it wiped away a comfortable advantage.

The two sucker punches implied the tide had turned and Ireland were in immediate danger of being overturned by Fiji's athletic prowess.

It would have been understandable for Schmidt to reach for the red button.

Instead, the coach allowed the starting fifteen to stay intact until the 56th minute.

"In a way, that try was really good for us because we saw guys tightening up," he explained.

"The amount of turnovers we conceded in that first half . . . I think we conceded 11 and they conceded 10.

"It was a turnover-a-thon," he stated.

"That is always dangerous and, of the two teams, who is more dangerous when it becomes a free-for-all?

"I think with the athletes and the experience they have, they would definitely be a real risk for us."

Schmidt did summon forth his front row, but only on schedule, just short of the three-quarter mark. The rest of the cavalry came in 'ones and twos', the core group left out there to sort it out.

They could have waned and wilted in the face of Fiji's size and energy.

Instead, Schmidt won the battle, but lost his war general in Joey Carbery.

The 22-year-old left the game with a suspected fractured forearm and will miss out on Leinster's back-to-back Champions Cup Christmas campaign.

The out-half had been impressive, in parts, conjuring Darren Sweetnam's first international try out of nothing.

All it took was a swivel of his hips, jet-propelled acceleration and an exquisite left-to-right dart which the Corkman took in his stride.

However, there is great concern about where the 22-year-old will find the open spots to gain much needed time at out-half when he does return in the New Year.

For the moment, Schmidt is hoping for the best, preparing for the worst.

"You've just got to back yourself when you get him in that you can get him into the best mindset and have him understanding as much about the position he plays as possible.

"That's what we'll build toward," he said.

There has been frustration at how neither Leinster or Ireland have been able to offer Carbery more time at ten.

"He's been a bit unlucky for us as well, to be honest," he added.

"We felt that he would have got some great time in Japan, and he got that injury.

"He would have come off the bench again next week, but he's got another injury.

"It's just proving elusive to us, at the moment.

"It's the same with Leinster," he added.

"If Rob Kearney had been fit, he might have been able to get some more time at 10."

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