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Provincial switch deal could see Joey Carbery go to new province, but not Ulster

By Ian Cameron
Joey Carbery. Photo / Getty Images

A radical provincial switch deal that is being looked at by the IRFU could see Leinster’s Joey Carbery go to an alternate Irish province and not Ulster – RugbyPass understands.


In recent weeks the debate over where the talented flyhalf should end up has ramped up, with the understanding being that the IRFU strongly favour a move by the 22-year-old to Ulster Rugby to fill the void in the position left by Paddy Jackson’s exit from the club.

RugbyPass were the first to report that Ireland coach Joe Schmidt and Carbery where spotted in a Dublin café last week in what most speculate was an attempt by the IRFU to convince Carbery a move North was in his best interest.

Carbery has let it be known that he favours staying in Leinster, something both Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster both agree on. At a Leinster press conference this week Lancaster was quizzed on the possible transfer: “I think Joey has developed brilliantly at Leinster and I think this is where he should stay”, said Lancaster. “He’s such a good player, a talented player I think. It’s through no fault of anyone’s that he hasn’t played as much this year, he’s been injured.”

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However a source close to the Leinster camp has told RugbyPass that another left of field option is being looked at which would see Carbery head to Munster and not Ulster, with Ian Keatley instead being sent to Ulster to fill the flyhalf position.


The switch deal might be enough to satisfy both parties, with Ulster getting an experienced 10, while Carbery gets to play at a province that more closely matches Leinster’s ability to make the closing stages of competitions.

Keatley could potentially act as a better mentor to promising Ulster 10 Jonny McPhilips than Carbery could.

Writing for RugbyPass this week, former Ireland backrow Neil Best suggests that there could be a selection dilemma at Ulster between Carbery and McPhillips.

“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.”

Reports suggest that any option being brokered is as a short-term deal and one that would see Carbery back in the Leinster fold in the not so distant future. Carbery could potentially move to Munster on a short-term deal and join up with Tyler Bleyendaal and JJ Hanrahan, while thre 31-year-old Keatley could sign a longer-term deal with Ulster.

This week Leinster and Ireland incumbent Jonny Sexton hinted that he is aiming to be around for at least another three years, which might make Carbery less reticent about leaving Leinster.

The Dubliner revealed that the Lions tour of South Africa in 2021, when he will be 35 years old, is his target for his last hurah.

“The World Cup and then to try to get on a third Lions tour,” Sexton said.

“I’d be 35, which as an out-half wouldn’t be a crazy age to get picked. Obviously there are a lot of young guys coming through and staying ahead of them would be the big challenge.

“Trying to keep improving is the big motivation for me. I think there is a lot more in me and hopefully I can keep improving over the next number of years.”

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