Search icon


08th May 2018

Joey Carbery’s potential move to Ulster gets even more complicated

Patrick McCarry

Go up to Ulster, work with a new coach, get a run of games at outhalf and improve your World Cup chances.

If only it were that simple.

Ulster Rugby look set to sit on the hands and pine for incoming head coach Dan McFarland until January 20 of next year.

The appointment of McFarland, a former assistant coach at Connacht and Glasgow, was announced by Ulster and the IRFU last week but there is a major hitch in the switch. The Scottish Rugby Union, who are understandably displeased at losing a key coaching figure from their national team set-up, are insisting that the Englishman serve out a nine month notice period in his contract.

With Jono Gibbes set to leave at the end of this season, not long after the Champions Cup qualification playoff against Ospreys on May 19, Ulster would then be looking for a caretaker coach to get them through preseason and a large chunk of 2018/19.

Announcing his Scotland squad for summer Tests against Argentina and Canada, head coach Gregor Townsend insisted that McFarland would be serving out his notice period.

The departure of McFarland back from the SRU to the IRFU umbrella has caused some umbrage across the water and will add another layer to the pool stage meeting of the two countries at the 2019 World Cup.

Ulster have stated they will do all in their power to free McFarland from his notice period and get him in at Kingspan Stadium ahead of the new season. However, the added uncertainty must be doing nothing for the confidence in either Joey Carbery or Ross Byrne to pack up and head up the M1 from Leinster.

Joe Schmidt and David Nucifora have let it be known that they would like either one of Leinster’s young out-halves to move to Ulster next season. The switch would not only alleviate some goal-kicking and play-making pressure on the current squad, it would provide the opportunity of more playing time in the No.10 jersey.

Addressing the likelihood of Carbery heading to Belfast, former Ulster and Ireland star Stephen Ferris told The Hard Yards:

“For Joey Carbery to retain that spot [for Ireland] of being Johnny Sexton’s back-up, he needs to be getting regular rugby. Is that going to be at Leinster? No, because Johnny Sexton is going to be there.

“Eddie O’Sullivan has said that it’s not like he is moving to Eastern Mongolia or anything, he’s only going 100 miles up the road. It’s not that big of a change and, going forward, Carbery could go to Ulster.

“But is he any better than Johnny McPhillips? Johnny McPhillips is only a young kid. Again, the IRFU are putting a lot of pressure on this to make sure they have all their options covered.”

All well and good, but Carbery and Byrne must be looking at the spate of senior figures moving on – Andrew Trimble, Tommy Bowe and Robbie Diack – and the continued flux about next season’s coaching staff and asking if a move could actually do them more damage than good.

WATCH: Liverpool BOTTLED the title race 🤬 | Who will win the Premier League?