Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt will have a lot of thinking to do over the next couple of weeks regarding his fly-half options going into the World Cup.
A month ago it seemed quite an easy picture for Ireland – Jonathan Sexton to start, with Joey Carbery on the bench. But an ankle injury to Carbery during the warm-up match against Italy on August 10 has now thrown the selection into turmoil.
While it is believed the Munster fly-half may be able to recover in time for the opening weekend of World Cup, assistant coach Richie Murphy has given no guarantees from Ireland’s warm-weather camp base in Portugal that he will be picked considering those that are waiting behind him.
Murphy also revealed that Ireland will seek to take five half-backs to Japan. Now that opens up a lot of questions, particularly regarding whether three or two fly-halves will be taken, and whether Carbery will be part of that group.
The main debate that will be raging will for now is who will be the back-up 10 in Carbery’s absence.
Joe Schmidt ready to experiment by giving Leinster's Ross Byrne his first Ireland Test start https://t.co/lA1Hwy96b0
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 21, 2019
Connacht’s Jack Carty and Leinster’s Ross Byrne are both in the squad and what the preference should be is a debate that few people in Ireland can agree upon.
Fans on social media seem to be split too. There are compelling arguments for both players, but a lot will be expected of them at the World Cup as the coaching staff will seek to manage Sexton’s playing time.
Joe Schmidt's latest training squad cull has shed light on his way of thinking about the Ireland RWC half-backs https://t.co/TGK4lAHyRd
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 14, 2019
Carty was selected for the Six Nations bench after Carbery was injured against Scotland in the Six Nations. He was also the substitute fly-half against Italy in the recent warm-up Test and some fans feel it is time for him to step up for Ireland.
Equally, Byrne, who deputises for Sexton with Leinster, is a fan favourite amongst and he earned his first caps in November 2018.
What does worry some fans is that the two players currently only have six caps – all as replacements – between them (Carty four and Byrne two) going into such a huge tournament. This is what has been said:
Anyone who has watched Jack Carty for the last number of years knows he is ready to step up. Was phenomenal this past season ??
— Eugene Doogan (@eugedoog) August 21, 2019
Time to finally back @JackCarty10 and give him his start v England
— Brian Duffy (@BaD1707) August 20, 2019
That Ross Byrne hasn't gotten more chances in green is downright criminal. Carbery was anointed as heir apparent as soon as he made Leinster's senior team and everyone else has been an afterthought. Now Ireland have a fly half injury crisis b/c nobody else gets playing time.
— christopher murphy (@christo85766536) August 20, 2019
I’d start Byrne tbh
— Mick O Brien (@mickobrien0) August 20, 2019
I think this reinforces the idea of Sexton being unlikely to make it through the tournament unscathed. Any idea of cooney covering 10 was gone once Joey got injured so it has to be 3 10's. Very tough call now between Carty and Byrne
— Colin O'Reilly (@colinor11) August 15, 2019
Ross Byrne guided Leinster into European knockout finals and Pro14 finals.
Byrne or Carty it's not much difference
Sexton staying healthy is where it's at
— Neil Mulvey (@MulveyNeil) August 21, 2019
With three Tests remaining before the global showcase starts – against England at Twickenham on Saturday where Byrne is expected to start, and home and away against Wales – expect both players to be tested as Schmidt searches for his back-up to Sexton.
WATCH: The Rugby Pod question whether Johnny Sexton is still at the level to start for Ireland
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