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Duane Vermeulen: 'My goal has never changed, I want to represent the Springboks at the World Cup'

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The patriot volunteer makes the most reliable soldier on earth. The conscript less so

By Neil Best

The patriot volunteer, fighting for country and his rights, makes the most reliable soldier on earth.


The conscript less so -and that’s why Ulster must approach the prospect of signing Joey Carbery with some caution. At no stage has anyone suggested that the player himself has asked or expressed a desire to go to Ulster. If he does make the move it’s because he’s been subjected to a level of coercion -gentle or not.

Carbery -like any other Ireland qualified player -wants to make the cut for the World Cup. It will be a huge honour for any player to play in Japan next summer, just as it was for me in France 2007. The big difference is that this team really could go the distance, and that prospect must make being involved next year even more tantalising.

It makes sense for Ireland to move Carbery for the coming season now they have ruled out selecting Paddy Jackson. He’s a good player and would only benefit from more game time at ten.

Even for Leinster it might make some sense as a temporary measure. The downside is they would be losing an option at ten for a season -but still have Ross Byrne to support Jonny Sexton and fill in during the Autumn and Six Nations. But the small upside is that Carbery would return with greater experience -both of playing and not always winning, as well as that of a World Cup. The larger upside is probably currency with the IRFU when they next want latitude on NIQs or some other rule flexibility.

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For Ulster anything other than a permanent deal makes little or no sense at all. Carbery is not the experienced ten that someone like Jonny McPhilips might be mentored by -in fact there is little between them in age or provincial outings at fly-half this season. His arrival for one season may only serve to inhibit the development of McPhillips.

Neither would it be genuine competition, presumably to serve the desired IRFU outcome Carbery would have to be picked when fit irrespective of the form of McPhillips. And without in any way questioning Carbery’s professionalism, I can think of others -who knowing the role is a World Cup warm up -would seek to play in a way to ensure that injury didn’t prevent them from getting to Japan.

For many fans McPhillips has earned the right in the second half of the season to be given his chance. He’s linked well with John Cooney, and together they’ve shown potential. And Cooney is a fine example of what can happen when someone moves on a permanent basis. His success may be down to Cooney as a person as much as a player, he seems to have really bought into Ulster and bonded with the fans. But the net result is a guy who’s up there as one of Ulster’s players of the season on and off the pitch.

From the point of view of the Club’s CEO and operations director, this situation provides them a genuine opportunity to reconnect with Ulster fans and show they aren’t just D4’s Vichy regime. If they take Carbery for a year it’ll further prove what many suspect, if they take him permanently it might be viewed as a coup of sorts, but if they turn the offer down -it will be a flexing of the Club’s independence that Ulster fans are crying out for.


Injustice, in the end, produces independence

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