Schmidt backs 'fierce' Carbery to maintain upward curve

Joe Schmidt has backed Joey Carbery to lead Ireland against Italy in Chicago tomorrow.

The 23-year-old – who celebrated his birthday yesterday – will make just his fourth international start as he returns to the same venue where he made his debut in the historic win over the All Blacks two years ago.

Schmidt played a key role in Carbery leaving Leinster for Munster during the summer and the head coach has been impressed by the immediate impact that the out-half has had in his first few months with his new club.

“Joey’s an affable character and a fierce competitor so it’s not overly surprising that he’s fitted in well at Munster, especially because he knew so many of the players before he went there,” Schmidt said.

“His running game is a strength as is his work ethic, so that’s always a good starting point,” he added.

“At the same time, being new into an environment and having to run the game is a challenge but I think he’s doing a good job of it and he seems to be getting increasingly comfortable with it.”

Jordan Larmour and Tadhg Beirne will make their first international starts against the Azzurri as Schmidt has opted to name an exciting but inexperienced team for the first of four games in the next four weekends.

Leinster out-half Ross Byrne and versatile Ulster back Will Addison are in line to make their debuts from the bench. Niall Scannell is again preferred to Seán Cronin as Schmidt pointed to the Munster hooker’s strength around the set-piece.

Ireland (v Italy) – J Larmour; A Conway, G Ringrose, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Carbery, L McGrath; J McGrath, N Scannell, A Porter; T Beirne, Q Roux; R Ruddock (capt), J van der Flier, J Conan. Reps: S Cronin, D Kilcoyne, F Bealham, D Toner, J Murphy, J Cooney, R Byrne, W Addison.

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