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Starting both Sexton and Carbery is a real option, says Murphy

 

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Although ostensibly they are competing for the same position, the scope is there for Johnny Sexton and Joey Carbery to take the field together on Saturday.

Carbery has played almost all of his rugby this season at full-back and while he said yesterday he has mostly been operating at out-half in Ireland training, he could bring his abilities onto the field in tandem with Sexton from the No.15 shirt.

There is a need to get minutes under the Athy youngster's belt - he has played only 22 minutes since November and they came at full-back against Montpelier in the European Champions Cup.

Although he almost came on for Sexton who was cramping up at the end of Saturday's win over France in Paris, he ended up an unused replacement and there must be a concern for his match-fitness.

Carbery prefers out-half but excels in the full-back role, coming into the line as a second distributor and counter-attacking well.

While Rob Kearney has been the main man for the entirety of Joe Schmidt's time in charge, there may be scope for some rotation for the Italy game this week and skills and kicking coach Richie Murphy says they have considered the idea of picking both Sexton and Carbery.

"Definitely, it's been considered," he said. "When he's sitting on the bench, he's not only covering No.10, we know he can slot into 15 and he's played a lot of his rugby there. So it's definitely something we've considered."

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Carbery was asked about his own preparation in Carton House where he has largely been training in the out-half slot.

"Pretty much 10," he said. "I've been jumping in at 10 - a little bit of 15 as well just in case."

The coaches have much to consider when it comes to the configuration of their back-three.

"It's just trying to get the balance right," Murphy said. "Rob gives us a massive amount of certainty at full-back.

"So it's just a matter of trying to fit the players into the back-line that we feel are ready to bring us forward from week to week.

"Joey is an incredible player, and a beautiful broken field runner, so whether he got a run at full-back it would add things to us in relation to some of our attack but it might take away in other things."

Murphy has no concern over Sexton's second-half penalty miss in Paris. Of course, Sexton more than made up for his miss with the last-gasp winner and Murphy was delighted.

"It was incredible to get up from cramp, have a little stretch and then go and do that," he said.

"But 45m is well within Johnny's range, especially when he hits them well. The drop goal comes down to a lot of hard work that was done outside of that game.

"I have known Johnny a long time, and I can think of hundreds of drop goals after practice.

"The work that's gone through the start, the re-start, Hendy (Iain Henderson), Earlsy (Keith Earls) high ball, the work in the tight, the ability hold onto the ball to create the opportunity was massive.

"It was an incredible moment. It will give us a massive boost. We have to park that now and look forward."

Belfast Telegraph

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