Joey Carbery: ‘I wanted to play more and get out of Johnny’s shadow’

Joey Carbery prepares for a possible first start for Munster this Friday admitting he left Leinster to “get out of the shadow of Johnny Sexton”.

Meeting the media as a Munster player for the first time yesterday since his summer move south and ahead of a potential first start in the number 10 jersey against Ospreys in Cork on Friday night, the 22-year-old explained the reasons behind his decision to leave his home province, his enjoyment of a new environment and the intention to make his mark long-term in a red jersey.

Carbery went through some considerable soul-searching before deciding to leave Leinster, the initial suggestion from the IRFU that he join Ulster in search of more game-time at fly-half. The Auckland-born, Kildare-raised player spent most of last season at full-back as Ross Byrne was the preferred deputy and stand-in for Sexton, and he felt the need to develop his game as a starting 10 rather than continue to watch the master at work close-up if he is to continue as Joe Schmidt’s chosen back-up going to the World Cup in 12 months.

“It was a tricky enough time,” Carbery admitted. “I suppose there were a few options given to me. I met with Johann after we (Leinster) played them in the RDS (in the PRO14 semi-final on May 19) and I met with him again then.

We kinda just chatted. I felt it was the best option for me. Obviously I wanted to be playing more and kinda get out of the shadow of Johnny.

“I’m very happy with the move. I’m loving it down here and I’ve no second guesses or anything, which shows that I made the right move.”

That admission represents quite a U-turn for a player who during last season said he thought Leinster was the best place for him yet, with the World Cup in mind, Carbery said he had something of an epiphany.

“I suppose I was learning so much, but I felt then that there is only so much you can learn from watching someone. The best way to learn is going out and doing it yourself and learning from your mistakes.

“I feel like I took in a huge amount of knowledge from the people around me in Leinster, now I just need to implement it into my game. The only way I can do that is out of the pitch.

I want to be humming and ticking by the time (the World Cup) comes. But the big thing for me was just getting the game-time. It’s tough sitting on the bench all of the time. It’s tough, all you want to be doing is going out there and playing because you work hard during the week. I suppose that was a big indicator as well.

Ironically, Carbery has had to bide his time so far at Munster, his debut and second appearance both coming off the bench, against the Cheetahs and then last Friday in Glasgow.

“I felt like I’ve done all right,” he said of his first 62 minutes as a Munster player but van Graan has been more than satisfied with his new signing.

“I think he’s been fantastic,” the South African said.

“You know when Joey and I initially spoke, I said to him ‘listen, I would love you to be at Munster’ and he knew from day one that he has got to work as hard as any other fly-half we have to, one: fit into the team, and two: earn his spot.

“He’ll get a run into the team soon and it’s up to him to perform on the day. I thought he’s done really well in the two instances.

“Some special moments…. from one ruck the ball at his right foot he turned and kicked it with his left foot, small things that he does brilliantly, he was taken out late three times over the weekend by the opposition which shows the kind of attention teams will put on him just because of his threat and you know sometimes the attacking side and what he can do but I thought he defended really well, he kicked well, his touch-kicking was really good over the weekend so pretty impressed by him.”

Having made the difficult decision to leave Leinster, Carbery suggested he has joined Munster for the long haul, allaying the fears of some in the province who believe he will jump ship back to Dublin once Sexton retires.

Asked if Munster would be his home “for the foreseeable future”, the fly-half replied: “Definitely. I don’t want to be chopping and changing and having to move and stuff. At this moment in time I’m very happy seeing myself here for a while. Yeah, I’m pretty happy with it.”

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Joey Carbery
By Simon Lewis
Rugby and Golf Correspondent

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