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23rd Apr 2018

‘If I was Leo, I’d nearly prefer if Joey Carbery went to Ulster’

Patrick McCarry

Neither Joey Carbery nor Ross Byrne will be eager to leave Leinster and you can hardly blame them.

When IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora spoke, earlier this season, about increasing player movement across the provinces, you could have forgiven Byrne or Carbery to have missed the news. Byrne was enjoying an extended run in the Leinster No.10 jersey while Carbery was battling back from an injury sustained on Ireland duty.

Right now, Leinster are well stacked in each and every department bar scrum-half and they’re not doing too badly there either. Leo Cullen’s side have a queue of talented out-halves, with Ciarán Frawley the latest prospect to star in his senior side cameos already.

All going well until, according to Peter O’Reilly from The Sunday Times, Nucifora and Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt both visited Leinster’s training centre last Sunday to inform Cullen that he would need to make a prompt decision between retaining Carbery or Byrne.

On Monday, Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty told reporters that no move to Ulster would be forced on Byrne or Carbery. The potential switch, which would see the player replacing Paddy Jackson at Ravenhill, was discussed [from 1:11:00 below] on The Hard Yards.

Former Munster and Ireland centre James Downey commented:

“What’s the better move for the club or the player? The better move for Ulster is 100% Ross Byrne.

“When Johnny Sexton is away, Byrne is the guy that steps up to play and he is so consistent with what he plays. You never talk about Ross Byrne having a bad game, because he does everything very percentage-wise. He’s very safe and kicks his goals. He is the type of 10 that Ulster need at the moment.

“If I was Leo, I’d nearly prefer if Joey went. Because when Johnny is away, Ross plays. Are you going to have Joey? Johnny will be away [with Ireland] and Joey might be away too. You’d have to blood through another 10 – Cathal Marsh or Frawley.

“For me, it’s a no-brainer. It’s the safe option and it’s the right option. I don’t think either player would particularly want to leave as they are both well established. Someone is going to be forced to go somewhere.” 

Carbery is the one player that would, in terms of his Ireland chances, get the most benefit out of regular game-time in the 10 jersey. However, he could dig in and let Byrne move so he could get more time at 10 for Leinster once one of his rivals is out of the picture.

Sexton, after all, will be 34 after the World Cup, in 2019, and may choose to finish up with province and country.

Whatever way this one falls, Ulster are set to benefit massively and the Leinster production line will be asked to splurt out another gem to keep them marching on.

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