Solving Ireland’s Current Crisis At Outhalf In The Short & Long-Term
This could become a serious problem.
Whether you’ve realised it yet or not, Ireland have a huge problem at outhalf that needs to be addressed by head coach Joe Schmidt as soon as possible.
Paddy Jackson is unavailable for the foreseeable future, Ian Madigan is plying his trade in England, Joey Carbery is a regular at 15 for Leinster, while Munster don’t know who their ten is.
As a result of all this, Joey Carbery started his first game at outhalf this season, in the Test arena against Fiji. Absolute madness when you think about it, but that’s just how things have panned out. It’s no one’s fault, but the issue must be addressed.
Joe Schmidt needs a back-up to Johnny Sexton for the 2018 Six Nations, and more importantly, he needs one in the long-term for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
In the short-term, it’s looking like whoever new Munster boss Johan van Graan installs as his ten, will be Ireland’s come the Six Nations. Carbery is out now until the New Year, so Keately, Hanrahan and Bleyendaal will have a head start. Let’s also not rule out Leinster’s Ross Byrne.
In the long-term here are Schmidt’s options.
Ross Byrne leaves Leinster for Ulster/Connacht
Carbery needs game time at ten for Leinster and he’s simply not going to get it in the current system. Ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Sexton and Madigan worked well when there was just two of them. Both got their minutes, and Schmidt had two tens he could rely on no matter the opposition. Byrne is too good to be third-choice and could do a job elsewhere, and perhaps even evolve his game and overtake Carbery.
Joey Carbery leaves Leinster for Ulster/Connacht
Don’t see this happening as Leinster aren’t going to leave a talent like Carbery go easily. This would be hugely beneficial to Ireland though, as Carbery would get all the game time at ten he requires and could really develop into a world class talent. Just don’t see it happening, and I really don’t blame Leinster to be honest.
Invest in Munster
When Johan van Graan comes in he’s eventually going to settle on his first-choice ten going forward. It makes sense to invest in one individual and run with him, rather than chopping and changing around. Ireland have the option of doing the same once they see who’s in that jersey. Whether it be Hanrahan, Bleyendaal or Keatley, Schmidt could invest in one of these players, similarity to what he did with Paddy Jackson. In doing this Carbery could be Ireland’s long-term solution at fullback.
What do you think? Are there other options available to Schmidt we’re missing? What do you think he should do?