Jack Carty is determined to force Andy Farrell’s hand into selecting him for Ireland, having not played for his country since the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Connacht fly-half Carty last played for Ireland against Russia in the pool stages of the World Cup, and last started for the men in green in the historic first-ever loss to Japan the previous week.
Carty has only played for Connacht since then, having fallen down in Ireland’s pecking order at number 10, with Ross Byrne, Billy Burns, Joey Carbery and Harry Byrne all making appearances at fly-half since then.
The Athlone native was speaking as a ‘Tackle Your Feelings’ ambassador for Zurich and Rugby Players Ireland and acknowledged that he had “left himself open” to missing out on Ireland selection over the last two seasons.
— RugbyPlayersIreland (@RugbyPlayersIRE) July 13, 2021
‘I’m leaving myself open to not be selected.’
“To say do I feel hard done by – no, I don’t feel hard done by [on missing out on Ireland selection]. I feel probably disappointed that I haven’t kicked on a little bit more,” Carty said.
“Selection is a perception thing, I suppose. If I compare myself to the time that I got my 10 caps – have I played at the same level and with the same consistency as I did then? Probably not. I’m probably leaving myself open not to be selected where before I gave myself the opportunity where I could nearly not not be selected.
“I suppose that’s the way that I’m trying to perceive it. Obviously there’s players there who have played less game time than I have but I can only really focus on myself. When I look back on the way that the last year went – I started off really well until maybe November time when there was a bit of a dip in and around the games before Christmas.
“I finished strong towards the end, so the season finished at probably the wrong time for me but I’m of the view that, and from speaking to Faz (Andy Farrell), that if I play well and am starting week-in and week-out and bring that level of consistency I’d like to think that I’ll be in a position where I can’t not be picked.”
Jack Carty on cutting out the ‘brainfarts’.
Carty is something of a maverick fly-half, who enjoys keeping defences on the back foot with his wide-ranging kicking game, which almost always results in an exciting game at the very least.
The Connacht man brings something different to the table than most fly-halves in the country, something which can act as a hindrance when trying to fit into the national team’s set-up.
While Carty can come up with moments of brilliance that Ireland’s other prominent number 10s may not be able to produce, the 28-year-old acknowledged that he is also prone to some costly errors.
“I’m probably my own player in that I play a bit of a different style to others. When I go play with Ireland it’s about probably trying to fit in with what they’re trying to do.
“We’ve obviously a new attack coach this year [at Connacht], Peter Wilkins is stepping up from that defensive role. It’s pretty exciting the change that he’s going to bring in.
“I think, invariably, the changes that he’ll bring will give me an ability to play more of my stuff. The big thing for me is obviously there’s the moment of brilliance or these things that stand out.
“It’s about getting rid of the brainfarts that come once every couple of games. They’re the things that probably stand out more than the flashes of brilliance, I suppose.”
‘To see all your work nearly go down the drain is a bit demoralising.’
Having been selected for Ireland’s Rugby World Cup squad, Carty now finds himself on the outside looking in again.
While Carty was named in Ireland’s squad in November for the two postponed Six Nations matches and the Autumn Nations Cup, he did not make an appearance for them, and hasn’t been named in any squads since then.
Although he admitted that missing out on selection for Ireland is “demoralising”, he is also excited to force his way back into Andy Farrell’s plans.
“Certainly I think when I came back [from the World Cup] I was probably mentally fatigued more so than physically,” Carty explained.
“I trained the absolute house down when I came back I was very much thinking, ‘This is my opportunity now to kick on. I’ve been to the World Cup, now I want to go on and grab the 10 jersey, for it to be my own.’
“I suppose it’s been almost the opposite. At the time it felt like it was out of my hands and I didn’t really know what to do. I got a good break at Christmas, it was nearly an enforced break from (Connacht head coach) Andy Friend – he gave me time away and when I came back from that I felt invigorated and fresh.
“I probably didn’t realise it at the time but I suppose I had such a whirlwind of a 10 months where I put so much energy in trying to get picked for the World Cup and then to kind of see all your work nearly go down the drain afterwards in terms of not being selected – it felt a bit demoralising.
“I kind of had to start all over again. So I’m back in that position again but I’m relishing the challenge of it.”
Jack Carty on Andy Friend’s excellence both professionally and personally.
While missing out on Ireland selection in recent times has been a major source of disappointment for Carty, he cited Connacht head coach Andy Friend‘s encouragement as a big boost.
Although Friend is often singing Carty’s praises, the Connacht fly-half revealed that the Australian coach also directs some harsh criticism at his players, as long as it is both constructive and asked for.
The Canberra native clearly cares for his squad on both a professional and personal level, with Carty explaining that there are very few lengths Friend wouldn’t go to in order to help his players.
“I haven’t had a coach like him, firstly in terms of how honest he is to you. If you’re not able to take that as a player obviously it can be quite tough. He tells the players ‘Do you want me to be completely honest with you?’ And he will,” Carty said.
“You have the utmost respect for him because you know everything he does comes from the right place. His wife last year during lockdown was going around to players’ houses and dropping them off baked food.
“We’re so lucky that we’re on one end of the spectrum where Friend would be checking in on players every week, giving them calls and he’ll meet players for lunch or breakfast.
“He’s very proactive in seeing players that are struggling as well, I think. I’ve seen Friend outside of rugby go above and beyond for players who are in pretty difficult situations, which is absolutely phenomenal.
“One of the players had a pretty tough time with something going on last year and he drove that player up to Dublin to the hospital himself at the drop of a book. He’s a top, top man and everyone in Connacht would probably say the same thing about him.”