The pros and cons of a Joey Carbery move to Munster
Joey Carbery is on the move.
The utility back's future has been widely debated this season but he is now set to join Munster next season following a recent meeting with the province's head coach Johann van Graan.
Carbery originally looked set to move to Ulster after the province and the IRFU revoked Paddy Jackson's contract with the union last month following his acquittal of rape charges at Belfast Crown Court, however, once Munster heard that Carbery's services were available next season, they quickly joined the race for the player.
It is understood that the decision to move ultimately belonged to Carbery and that the stress surrounding his future caused him some sleepless nights.
In an effort to pinpoint some of the factors in this decision, we've laid out some of the pros and cons of leaving Leinster and joining Munster.
- Playing with Conor Murray:
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One of the biggest advantages of moving to Munster is undoubtedly the chance to play with Conor Murray.
The Munster scrum-half has established himself as one of the finest scrum-half's in world rugby over the last few seasons and playing with the Ireland half-back will definitely take some pressure off Carbery from having to run the team right away.
Carbery started just one game all season for Leinster at fly-half and it's hard to expect him to just waltz into the Munster side and take immediate control of their backline.
Given Murray's ability and the size of the Munster forward pack the province can play a lot of their attack through him if need be, which could be beneficial for Carbery as it would take a significant amount of pressure off him as he continues to grow comfortable with playing fly-half at the professional level.
- Playing for a team that can contend:
Ulster CEO Shane Logan can talk from now until the end of time about his ambitions to bring world-class rugby to Belfast but the reality is Ulster have not qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions Cup since 2014.
Furthermore, their incoming head coach Dan McFarland might not arrive at the province until January of next year which made the province an increasingly tough sell to Carbery.
I wasn't present at Carbery's recent meeting with van Graan but I can imagine at some stage it sounded like this:
"We've made the semi-finals of two major competitions. We have a team littered with Ireland internationals. Some lively backs in Andrew Conway and Keith Earls and a bruising forward pack that will get you clean ball. We have four fly-halves on our books but you're probably better than all of them. We want you to be our fly-half for the next decade and help us win trophies for years to come."
That's the pitch, or at least a summary. We think we can make a C hampions Cup and PRO14 final and we want you to help us get there. Sold!
- Game time:
Carbery was ruled out for three months earlier this season with a broken arm but when he was fit he spent most of the season at Leinster on the fringes of the starting XV.
When Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Rob Kearney were all available, Carbery was on the outer at Leinster.
The 22-year-old pointed to players like Dan Carter and Beauden Barrett as examples of players that started their careers wider from the ruck before eventually moving into fly-half but those players were still starting at their respective clubs during their respective apprenticeships at inside centre and full-back.
Starts are hard to come by at Leinster but even when an opportunity has presented itself this season, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has g enerally sided with Ross Byrne at fly-half and Carbery at full-back.
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Heading into a Rugby World Cup year Carbery needs minutes and he would certainly see a lot more time on the pitch at Munster next season than he would at Leinster.
- Working with Joh ann van Graan:
Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster spoke glowingly about Carbery after the province's PRO14 final win over the Scarlets last weekend but working with van Graan could have a significant impact on his development as a fly-half.
Munster averaged 32.1 point per game in van Graan's first 10 games in charge as the province became a more attacking outfit in the wake of Rassie Erasmus' departure.
The loss of Simon Zebo will be a significant blow for Munster next season and a player they will struggle to replace but there's genuine weapons for Carbery to work with in the form of Earls, Conway, Alex Wootton and Chris Farrell.
- Joe Schmidt and David Nucifora are both pushing this
It would seem odd that Schmidt would meet with Carbery to reaffirm his position at Leinster and it's understood that the Ireland head coach favoured a move for the playmaker to see him play more games ahead of nex t year's Rugby World Cup.
Ross Byrne played 19 games at fly-half this season compared to just the lone appearance at pivot for Carbery.
Byrne's call up to the Ireland squad for the summer tour of Australia could be a sign that Schmidt is willing to give the 23-year-old a shot with the national team which could have jeopardised Carbery's role as Johnny Sexton's backup if he had stayed at Leinster.
Leaving the best team in Europe:
He may not have started in the PRO12 or the Champions Cup final but Carbery has undoubtedly benefited from working with Stuart Lancaster at Leinster and being part of a winning team.
Leinster have been exceptional since Lancaster joined the club in 2016 and playing in a team that will consistently compete for silverware cannot be disco unted.
Leinster are poised to contend for the next decade with the age profile of their squad and Carbery could have been an important part of that process once Sexton begins to fade away from the first team.
Giving up on succeeding Sexton:
Sexton recently indicated that he would be open to the idea of playing until 40, at which point Carbery would be 29.
It's unlikely that Carbery would have been willing to spend the next seven years waiting for Sexton to hang up his boots but the Leinster fly-half will turn 33 next month.
Ronan O'Gara retired from rugby at 36. Jonny Wilkinson retired at 35. Dan Carter is leaving Racing for Japan at age 36, which is about as close as you can get to retirement without actually hanging your boots up. You figure Sexton will fall into a similar predicament unless he really is an exception to the rule and not much closer to the norm.
If Sexton retires from r ugby in two years' time Carbery will be 24-years-old, the same age Sexton took over at fly-half from Felipe Contempomi at Leinster. Is it worth leaving Leinster just to receive more time as a back-up for a World Cup?
Maybe it is but two years over the course of the next decade is an incredibly short period of time.
Leinster have a brighter future:
Of the 23 Ireland players that suited up for Ireland's Grand Slam win at Twickenham on St. Patrick's Day, eight of those players - Tadhg Furlong, James Ryan, Dan Leavy, Garry Ringrose, Jacob Stockdale, Andrew Porter, Joey Carbery and Jordan Larmour - were 25-years-old or younger. Seven, now six, of those players play for Leinster.
Leinster should have the nucleus of the Irish team for the next decade and if Carbery leaves Leinster he'll be going to a club where the best players are significantly older than their counterparts in Dublin.
Pet er O'Mahony, CJ Stander and Conor Murray are all in the 28-29 age bracket which should give Carbery the best years of those players careers, but with a view to the long term, Leinster have a core group of players that are significantly younger and should be competing consistently for the next decade.
- Does he want to go or was he pressured?
Carbery has consistently dismissed reports linking him with a move away from Dublin as speculation and it was rumoured to be a significant concern for Ulster about signing the player; did he actually want to move?
Carbery seemed perfectly content to learn behind Sexton this season and it's understandable to see why a kid that came through Athy, Blackrock College and the Leinster Academy would want to stay with the club he supported as a child.
Leinster will not be happy to see him go given the time and the investment the club have made in him but is he happy to leave Leinster? We'll fin d out in due course.
The Hard Yards
This week: We chat to Johnny Sexton and Garry Ringrose after Leinster clinched the double. James Downey & Kev McLaughlin join Andy in studio.
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