It has been a whirlwind number of months for Jack Carty.
A highly impressive season with Connacht saw him earn a spot in Ireland’s squad for the Six Nations and he made his Test debut against Italy earlier this year. On the back of his displays for province and country, the 27-year-old was named in Joe Schmidt’s squad for the Rugby World Cup, beating out Ross Byrne for the third out-half position.
Just seven months after his international debut, Carty finds himself in Japan, one of two Connacht players preparing to challenge themselves at the highest level as part of the number one squad in the world.
If that ever seems like an overwhelming or sensational situation to find himself in, Carty is skilled in relating it back to more down-to-earth and familiar scenarios. For example, Japan was “strange” to him when he first arrived but he soon felt right at home.
“Yeah, first day or two, you’re probably speaking to the lads the other day, jet lag and that. But got over that now. It’s been a bit strange. I suppose two days ago it was really warm, I got scalded and now today’s rain. It’s a bit like Galway nearly.
“We’ve all settled in. The locals here in Chiba have been really welcoming to us. It’s just been great so far.
“I got scalded in Galway as well!”
Stories have emerged all week about how countries are training for the conditions. Warren Gatland has been employing rugby balls covered with baby oil while Eddie Jones has apparently turned to soap-covered balls for their lineout in order to prepare for the humid and greasy conditions.
For Carty, none of those tactics are necessary. Living and playing in the west of Ireland is preparation enough.
“[The conditions are] pretty similar to what I’m used to in Galway. I was doing a few kicking reps with Enda McNulty there today and he was just putting scenarios in my head and look, it was quite windy where we were and quite wet, so, I suppose it’s nice to have had those conditions regularly throughout the year.
“I think, whether it’s that (warm, rainy) which it looks like it could be at the weekend or whether it’s going to be drier and humid, we’ve obviously had our warm-weather conditioning training in Portugal and that, so I think we’re well-prepped for whatever it is at the weekend.”
Conditions will only add to the difficulty level for Ireland’s World Cup opener against Scotland on Sunday. Schmidt’s side have been hit with a number of key injuries this week with Robbie Henshaw confirmed to miss out on the clash while serious questions marks still remain over the availability of Rob Kearney and Keith Earls.
Carty admits that the loss of his former Connacht teammate is a big blow ahead of the encounter.
“Look, Robbie last week, you could see the energy he brought, especially in defence. I think obviously for himself, it’s probably a bit of a blow but if you look at the three lads who are there, Bundee [Aki], Ringer [Garry Ringrose] and Chris [Farrell] – they bring their own little things to the pitch and when they’re at their best, they’re world-class.
“Look, it’s obviously really bitterly disappointing for Robbie, he’ll be working hard to try to get back. I suppose it’s an opportunity for the other three lads to step in and step up.”
Having to deal with injuries prior to kick-off in the tournament must be a huge concern for Schmidt and the coaching staff considering the gruelling nature of the fixtures list.
Ireland have a six-day turnaround following the Scotland clash before they face Japan. Following that, they only have a five-day break until they take on Russia. The strenuous nature of the schedule will mean that players will have to be managed carefully and fringe players must be ready to step up should Ireland be hit with another injury crisis.
“I suppose, it’s probably unique in the sense that, usually in Europe or in our domestic league, it’s maybe a six the odd time but most likely a seven-day turnaround, so, when we have them shorter ones, which we will have, between the Japan and Russia game, it will come down to managing players.
“Obviously, playing at this level is going to be hugely attritional. We’ll just have to see how the first two games go and take it from there.”