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How Joey Carbery reacted when he saw Johnny Sexton pull up lame

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Joey Carbery has explained what ran through his mind on Wednesday when Johnny Sexton was no longer training with Ireland during their session at Carton House. The 26-year-old, who has only started nine of his 28 matches at Test level, came into the preparations for this Saturday’s match away to France ready to provide bench cover. 

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However, with Sexton suddenly pulling up lame with a hamstring, Ireland coach Andy Farrell has turned to Carbery to start his first-ever Guinness Six Nations match in an international career that stretches back to a November 2016 debut.

Multiple injuries and the frequent availability of the long-serving Sexton have conspired against Carbery over the years. Even when Sexton was laid up for a key 2019 World Cup pool match versus Japan, Joe Schmidt, the boss at the time, opted to instead start Jack Carty in a game that ended with an upset defeat. 

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Now, though, fortune has favoured Carbery and after Sexton pulled up on the training ground, Farrell turned to the Munster out-half to take over the Irish No10 jersey rather than select Carty, who will be on the bench in Paris.  

“I didn’t really think about it until I was actually told,” said Carbery about the drama that unfolded on the Ireland training ground

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“We do a lot of switching in and out during training so when I was told to stay in I was excited and looking forward to getting some minutes under my belt. To be honest, over the last two or three weeks, in Portugal and the Welsh week I was in and out a lot so I’m feeling very confident.”

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Having endured a miserable run of injury at Munster, Carbery most recently stepped up to the Ireland No10 plate for the November series finale versus Argentina. Sexton had been injured in the previous weekend’s win over the All Blacks and Carbery took over with aplomb.

He helped Ireland into a comfortable winning position before switching to full-back for the last 30 or so minutes to allow the debut-making Harry Byrne to have a go at out-half. Carbery was then given 16 minutes off the Ireland bench in last weekend’s Six Nations win over Wales but he now feels ready to leap into Sexton’s show from the start versus France.

“I’m really excited for the weekend now. I feel like I’m ready to go, both mentally and physically… I’m just going out there to do my job and help the team in the best way I can. Everyone is humming and really excited for the weekend, so if I can help out the guys inside and outside of me then I will be doing my job and we hopefully will be in a good spot.

“I suppose anyone would get nervous before any big game. I definitely do. There will always be that but I suppose when you think back to what you have been through and how the training has gone the previous week, it gives confidence to me.

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“Anyone who has been through a long-term injury knows how difficult it is. To have come through that teaches you to enjoy the good things in life sometimes, so I’m just delighted to be back playing, to be back out there injury-free, just relishing the whole environment of going into such a big game at the weekend.”

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