‘I’m feeling really ready’ – Joey Carbery makes his first Six Nations start in crunch Paris clash

Joey Carbery says he is “mentally stronger” after coming back from a number of serious injuries to claim his first Six Nations start.

Carbery, 26, was absent at Test level for almost two years due to injury trouble and the Munster out-half only made his latest comeback last week, coming off the bench in Ireland’s victory over Wales, his first action since undergoing elbow surgery in early December.

Expected to be on the bench again in Paris on Saturday, Carbery instead will be Ireland’s pivot in the crucial championship clash at the Stade de France on Saturday after skipper Johnny Sexton suffered a hamstring injury that will keep him out for seven to 10 days.

So opportunity now knocks in a big way for Carbery, who got the nod from Ireland head coach Andy Farrell ahead of Jack Carty.

“I’m really excited for the weekend now,” he said. “I feel like I’m ready to go, both mentally and physically, training has gone really well this week and last week was good as well.

“Yeah, I’m feeling really ready.

“I didn’t really think about it until I was actually told. We do a lot of switching in and out during training so when I was told to stay in, I was excited and looking forward to getting some minutes under my belt.

“To be honest, over the last two or three weeks, in Portugal and in the Welsh week I was in and out a lot so I’m feeling very confident.

“I’m just going to go about it in my own way, the way I normally would, regardless of whether I was starting or on the bench. So just try to be myself, really.

“I think anyone who has been through a long-term injury knows how difficult it is. To have come through that teaches you to enjoy the good things in life sometimes.

“So to be honest, I’m just delighted to be back playing, to be back out there injury-free, just relishing the whole environment of going into such a big game at the weekend

“It puts everything back into context really when you’re back playing and you’re not injured, but definitely, having gone through that, I feel mentally a lot stronger for it.

“So yeah, looking forward to it. I suppose anyone would get nervous before any big game. I definitely do.

“There will always be that but when you think back to what you have been through and how the training has gone the previous week, it gives confidence to me in particular and then confidence to players around you.

“So knowing that you can lean back on the work that you’ve done before gives me massive confidence.”

Asked if this will be the biggest game of his career to date, Carbery replied: “I think I’ll only be able to answer that question when I’m retired!

“I’ve obviously been involved in a few Six Nations campaigns before but looking forward to getting the start from the go-ahead. Yeah, just really excited and looking forward to Saturday.

“I’m just going out there to do my job and help the team in the best way I can. I think everyone’s humming and really excited for the weekend.

“So if I can help out the guys inside and outside of me then I’ll be doing my job and hopefully we’ll be in a good spot.”

In terms of what Ireland fans can expect from his own game on Saturday, Carbery replied: “It’s hard to put into words but it’s just playing to my (strengths), getting a feel for the game.

“Trying to make guys around me look good – yeah, try and combine everything and do the right thing.”

Sexton will be travelling to France with the squad this afternoon, with Farrell keen to put his experience and know-how to good use. Carbery says he will utilise Sexton’s presence in the final build-up.

“He’s very experienced and he’s a great guy to chat to,” said the Athy man. “But I feel like my preparation has been very good, so with the help of him and the coaches I feel like I’ll be ready to go on Saturday. So, really excited about that.”

Carbery had to be patient before returning to the Ireland set-up last summer and experiencing Test rugby again. For him, it was about enjoying the whole package again, after so long away.

“Obviously getting back up to speed with all the calls and the systems within Ireland took me a week but I didn’t look at it that way,” he said.

“I wanted just to go out and enjoy being back playing again. I love being in the whole environment of the place so just trying to enjoy every day, get better and do my part as part of the team.”

He has started three Tests since his return, including the last November win over Argentina. Carbery says that has helped him “massively” in terms of his confidence ahead of this fixture.

“I think every time I get a start under my belt it’s hugely beneficial so having the November and having the summer Tests behind me, I think it leaves me in a good spot going into this weekend,” he remarked.

Carbery will be linking up with scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park in what will be a pivotal partnership for the visitors. Carbery believes they will go well in tandem.

“I’ve played with him a few times before,” he said. “I get on really well with him and I’m looking forward to getting out there with him.

“He’s a great guy to play outside. He brings tempo and brings players in around him, he makes my job a lot easier.”

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