Former Ireland lock Malcolm O'Kelly joined Off The Ball on Sunday to review Joey Carbery and his performance against France.
Joey Carbery was thrust into the starting lineup against France. A minor injury to Jonathan Sexton forced him to make his first Six Nations start in a tough environment.
Carbery is 26 years of age. He has starred for Munster and Ireland, so there is a presumption that he's an established player. But he hasn't played enough to be an established player. The talent is obviously there because he has matched up comfortably against New Zealand on two occasions, but he needs more starts like this one to become a full-time option for Ireland.
Unfortunately for Carbery, he came into this game having not played much rugby. He was injured before the Six Nations and came off the bench against Wales the prior week.
Coming in cold, with limited experience at this level, it should have been a disastrous day for him. Instead, Carbery showed why he's so highly thought of. He excelled against an outstanding France defence that specifically targeted him. Malcolm O'Kelly explains how impressed he was by his performance.
"There was a huge amount of pressure on him," O'Kelly said.
"He hasn't had a huge amount of game time. I thought he got going. He got into the game, he found his feet pretty quickly. He had to find them pretty quickly. Once or twice he got caught man and ball, you always knew the French gameplan would be to really pressurize the Irish attack.
"They did that."
O'Kelly describes the French approach as shutting Ireland's attack off at the source. They targeted Carbery and Jamison Gibson-Park while battling hard with the forwards so that Ireland couldn't loop their out-half outside. Jonathan Sexton has made his loop plays famous and Carbery is more than capable of replicating that.
France forced Carbery to work hard just to get into the play designs the backline called. But he was able to make it work in difficult conditions.
"Carbery at one stage showed a great touch to get the ball outside to Andrew Porter. He showed he's got all the skills. It's a great confidence boost for him, and I'd imagine the team as well, to get through the game in the manner that he did. He really looked very comfortable, certainly in the second half.
"He led from the front and implemented the strategy and the gameplan really well. Ireland looked really good in attack in the second half and that was down largely to his ability to make good decisions.
"He did well, really well."
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