A cold, wet December night in the south of France may prove to be a major moment in the career of Joey Carbery.
During that 13-12 loss to the French side, in a game which was marred by unpunished indiscipline from the hosts, Carbery struggled to control the game for Munster and also had an off day with the tee where he missed three penalties.
Since then, Carbery has put in some huge performances for the southern province, winning back-to-back man-of-the-match performances in the wins against Connacht and Gloucester while also achieving a 100% success rate with his 17 kicks at goal in the last three games.
His most accomplished performance to date was last Friday in Kingsholm where his two tries and a sublime assist for Andrew Conway have received widespread praise.
It now seems Carbery is beginning to fully settle into his out-half duties with Munster after only making one appearance in that position for Leinster last season before him summer switch down the M7.
Of course, settling on combinations and achieving familiarity with those around you is crucial to performing at a high level.
Thankfully, Carbery has the likes of Conor Murray and Rory Scannell on either side of him.
With Scannell having played at 10 throughout his underage career, the Corkman knows what makes an out-half tick.
“I played a lot of 10 through school and from that point of view, I like to get good communication from the guys outside me and that’s what I am trying to do for Joey,” Scannell told the media this week.
“I try to tell him where the space is and when he knows where that space is, he is more than likely going to be able to take it. I try to give as many options as I can, left and right foot in the middle of the field.
“He’s playing unbelievable rugby. He had a disappointing day in Castres but since then he is playing some of the best rugby of his career. His kicking has been outstanding in the last couple of games. I think he’s starting to really enjoy it. He’s going to be very important to our season.”
Developing familiarity with one another takes time and it can’t be rushed. This partnership has been disrupted somewhat this season due to Carbery’s commitments to Ireland throughout the November internationals but Scannell believes it is now paying dividends due to their time together over the last few weeks.
“Obviously, with the competition in the squad at the moment… Joey’s been away in the Autumn with Ireland so it’s getting those couple of games in a row together, it’s definitely important. It’s getting those last couple of games together. It was good to get out in the last two European games together. When you start playing with guys more, you start to get more comfortable.
“It’s been hard because it’s such a competitive squad and lads have gotten opportunities, and Chris [Farrell] is only just back as well so the three of us haven’t played a whole lot together but I’ve enjoyed the last couple of games and hopefully, it will be the same this weekend.”
Scannell has seen Carbery’s growth this season and the two things that have impressed him most are his calmness under pressure and his ability to bounce back from a disappointing performance.
“He’s just been so calm under pressure.
“Last year with Leinster he probably wasn’t starting at 10 in a lot of those big European games.
“It’s been a great experience for him this year to start in those games and I was most impressed with his goal kicking. He’s got his last 17 kicks since the Castres game. That shows great character after having had a disappointing day off the tee in a big European game.
“There is only a point in it at the end but since then I don’t think he’s put a foot wrong really. He’s had two man-of-the-match awards since then. He’s shown outstanding character.”
Besides doubt surrounding Peter O’Mahony’s fitness ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Exeter Chiefs, there are no fresh injury worries for head coach Johann van Graan which means Munster supporters will look forward to seeing the Murray-Carbery-Scannell-Farrell axis develop further.