As Ireland are set to begin their November series, it is yet another campaign where Johnny Sexton is arguably head and shoulders above the rest of the fly-halves in Ireland. With Sexton set to win his 100th cap against Japan on Saturday, I cannot see many more chapters left of a wonderful career.
Arguably Ireland’s greatest 10, he is not getting any younger and his long-term replacement is yet to be identified. While it is encouraging to see Sexton healthy and in form at 36 years old, it remains unclear who will take over the throne at ten in the future, with the current back up to Sexton also a major concern. Despite this, some players will look to impress over the following weeks and months to show there is life after Sexton.
Carbery burst on to the scene with Leinster and Ireland in 2016, with many fans and pundits viewing him as the future of Irish rugby. After two impressive seasons with Leinster, at which he shone at both ten and full back, it became clear to me that he is too talented to be Sexton’s back up. The IRFU stepped in to further his playing time with a move to Munster in 2018.
While the beginning of his Munster career showed promise, injuries in 2019 have stalled his career. Had Carbery stayed fit, he would more than likely be my choice for the ten jersey. Carbery’s injury struggles began with a serious ankle injury against Italy in August 2019, with a number of further injuries and setbacks to follow for almost two years following the injury.
Since returning in March, Carbery has been unable to hit the heights we all know he is capable of. I think that the main priority for Carbery will be to stay fit and play in a consistent run of games, something that has been beyond his reach in the last couple of years.
Critics have come for Carbery following his start to the season, with Ireland manager Andy Farrell calling for patience.
In my opinion, Jack Carty must be questioning what else he has to do to get a look in with Ireland. Carty has started the season brilliantly, outperforming both Carbery and Ulster ten Billy Burns in back-to-back games, yet still left out of the squad.
Despite failings across the team in the defeat to Japan, I think much of the blame was put on Carty’s shoulders. While he has let his performances do the talking, it doesn’t seem me that Andy Farrell values the Roscommon man at this moment.
Arguably, Carty is what Ireland needs right now. His ability to find space behind the defence with ball in hand has caused several teams, including Munster problems. His running game and ability to link up with the back line makes him one of the most exciting players to watch in the URC for me.
A somewhat surprise given his lack of game time this season, I see Harry Byrne as the long-term young option for Ireland. The younger brother of teammate Ross, Harry’s inclusion has raised a few eyebrows, while also raising some questions.
I don’t think anyone can doubt the potential that Byrne has. His creativity and passing range brings others into the game and makes him a joy to watch. While his brother Ross has been a reliable replacement for Sexton with Leinster, I think his reliability has somewhat gone against him.
It shows how rugby is changing in the ten position. Harry Byrne’s playing style of really stretching defences with kicks in hand and eye for a try is similar to other talented ten’s his age worldwide, such as England’s Marcus Smith.
With a somewhat change in approach leading to the next World Cup announced, I will be interested to see if Byrne gets game time this November to establish international experience. Byrne will look to play in important European games for Leinster this season to show just how talented he is.