Joey Carbery performed well against France but Sunday’s Six Nations clash with Italy gives the fly-half the chance to “make sure he grasps that next level” said Ireland attack coach Mike Catt on Saturday.
Carbery will start his second successive Six Nations game, with fit-again talismanic fly-half and team captain Johnny Sexton is on the bench, after impressing in the 30-24 loss in France a fortnight ago.
That defeat ended Ireland’s run of nine successive Test victories but they have the perfect opportunity to keep their title hopes alive against an Italy side, soundly beaten by both France and England.
“Joey is slowly growing into himself again,” said Catt at the eve of match press conference referring to Carbery’s near two year absence from 2019 to last summer due to an ankle injury.
“He had a very good performance against France, this is the next step-up for him now, he’s got his feet up at the table, under the desk and he needs to make sure he grasps that next level.”
While Carbery had to wait six years from making his Test debut for his first Six Nations start, Michael Lowry has had to wait only a few months since being called into the national squad camp.
The 23-year-old Ulster fullback gets his chance with head coach Andy Farrell resting first choice Hugo Keenan. The Irish have tricky matches away to England then home to Scotland to come.
“I think the nice thing about these guys coming in is they have no baggage with them,” said Catt.
“They play with no fear. Mikey loves doing what he does.
“It’s really infectious and it drives people around him to have that same feeling. I think it’s crucial that players can come in like Mikey and play the way he wants to play.”
Despite Italy being on a 34 Six Nations match losing streak and shipping 70 points already in their opening games Catt says there is no way the Irish will saunter onto the pitch thinking the game is already won.
“Italy are a very young side, they have got some exciting players in there,” said Catt, who was part of the Italy coaching staff from 2016-19.
“The back row, (Michele) Lamaro the captain who’s exceptionally passionate and a very good rugby player.
“They’ve got (Paolo) Garbisi obviously and (Leonardo) Marin now at 12, so these guys are all young and they’re still trying to learn their trade and it’s very, very tough to learn your trade when you’re getting beaten every weekend from a confidence point of view.
“I think the way that (coach) Kieran Crowley wants the game to be played is definitely shining through but, again, it takes time and experience for that to happen.”