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It's a big step up but I'll put my own stamp on it: Jack Carty


Golden chance: Jack Carty will make just his second ever start for Ireland against hosts Japan
Golden chance: Jack Carty will make just his second ever start for Ireland against hosts Japan

By Cian Tracey

Jack Carty's parents were in Yokohama last weekend to see their son make his World Cup debut in style.

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Ted and Susan left Japan on Tuesday and as soon as they touched down home, they received a phone call from Jack, who told them that he would be starting against Japan tomorrow.

It must have been a bittersweet call because while they were obviously overjoyed for their son, not being able to witness it will be disappointing.

How that scenario unfolded sums up Carty's rollercoaster career. After all, it is not that long ago that we chatted in a small room in the Sportsground and he admitted that he wondered if he would ever get a call-up.

Seven months after he won his first cap, Carty has been propelled to the front of the queue and will lead Ireland in a crucial World Cup game.

With Joey Carbery fit again, Joe Schmidt could easily have turned to the Munster out-half, but he has backed Carty, who has impressed in all eight of his appearances thus far.

It is a remarkable story of resilience because, in the midst of not getting a look-in with Ireland, Carty suffered a freak accident in 2016 which threatened to end his career.

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The arrival of Andy Friend in Galway was a turning point in the Athlone ace's career. Carty has been given licence to play what he sees and has thrived.

Some wondered if that off-the-cuff style would be too open and expansive for Schmidt, and although it took the Kiwi a while to give the 27-year-old a chance, his performances were consistently too good to ignore.

Despite his excellent form, it does beg the question: what would he have thought if someone had told him this time last year that he would be running the show from the start in Ireland's second World Cup game?

Jack Carty
Jack Carty

"That there must have been a decimation of injuries," he laughed.

"It wouldn't have been something I would have foreseen. It was just the way it materialised with the way the year went for me and with Connacht. I didn't see it happening at all."

There might not be room for sentimentality in professional sport, yet Carty is one of the good guys.

Japan already genuinely feel that they can pull off a major upset in Shizuoka and seeing Johnny Sexton's absence from the team sheet will have come as another major boost.

"It's nearly every week that it's the biggest game," Carty smiled, relishing the challenge. "The first couple in the Six Nations you would have seen as the biggest one and things kept rolling. Pressure is what you make of it. I don't feel that much. I'm just really excited."

Carty's all-round game has gone up a notch in the last two years. His ability to take the ball flat to the line makes him a nightmare to defend against, while his goal-kicking has gone to new levels after spending countless hours working with Eric Elwood and Richie Murphy.

For all of that, however, his mental approach has allowed him to take the next step.

"Probably just my overall mindset," Carty said of that improvement. "Friendy coming in has been a breath of fresh air, the way he has allowed me to dictate the game and just see space. That's given me confidence."

Earlier this week, Ireland's skills and kicking coach Murphy insisted that whoever replaced Sexton had to have the confidence to play his own game. Carty is confident he can do that.

"I'm not going to try to be Johnny or Joey. I'm going to put my stamp on things. The two have things that they're better than me at and I'd like to think that I have things that might be better than them," he said.

Carty will be helped by having Conor Murray's experience inside him, but still, tomorrow will be just his second ever start.

When Ireland were in Japan two years ago, Carty was on standby, so when Carbery was ruled out and the call didn't come, he was devastated. The call also didn't come last November when he was also told to keep his phone on.

"I was in Spain, I remember Joey got injured and I thought I might have got a call-up, but I didn't," he recalled. "I was out for dinner with my sisters and girlfriend. I was moody. I was expecting a call the next day. I was disappointed. I wouldn't have thought all hope was lost.

"Probably where I didn't see myself getting in was November when I thought I played well for a period and then was on standby for that Italy game in Chicago.

"I was just fortunate with how everything has happened. A few injuries have gone my way and my form has picked up."

Ted and Susan might not be in the stand, but they plan to return for the Samoa game. By that stage, their son might have played a big role in steering Ireland towards a World Cup quarter-final.

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