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high hopes Joey can use ‘hunger’ to fill Johnny Sexton void – Andy Farrell backs Carbery to shine in Paris

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Joey Carbery: 'Feeling really ready'. Photo: Sportsfile

Joey Carbery: 'Feeling really ready'. Photo: Sportsfile

Joey Carbery: 'Feeling really ready'. Photo: Sportsfile

Andy Farrell has backed Joey Carbery to step up to the plate in Paris after losing captain Johnny Sexton to a hamstring injury.

The Munster out-half will make his first Six Nations start against France tomorrow in what is the only change to the side that beat Wales last week.

Sexton had been primed to start, but he pulled up in training on Wednesday and was ruled out for the game.

He’s expected to be fit in time for the clash against Italy in two weeks, but in his absence Carbery gets his shot to start with Jack Carty back in an Ireland squad for the first time since the win over Russia at the 2019 World Cup.

“I’m excited to see Joey just being himself,” Farrell said of the 26-year-old. “He’s a man of many talents and he’s one hell of a player.

“I just want to see him be himself, be super confident that he’s got to bring his own game to the party.

“He’s in a great place. He has been involved in some big games for us over the years and he’s had some downs with the injuries, but he has had a solid two-and-a-half weeks’ training with us.

“He knows exactly how we want to play as a team and we’re expecting him to deliver that like everyone else.

“I think his experiences (of injury) make him more hungry to get back on this type of stage and perform and be the player that he knows he is and wants to be.

“People obviously take the rough with the smooth as far as injury is concerned and they take their opportunity by preparing well.

“When the opportunity comes, they take it with both hands and that’s what the best of them do. This is an opportunity for Joey.”

After a sustained period that has seen his career hampered by a succession of injuries, Carbery feels the time is right for him to enter such a big stage, and the Munster man displayed no signs of pre-match nerves when he spoke to the media yesterday.

“I’m really excited for the weekend now. 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,” Carbery said.

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“I’m feeling really ready. I’ve obviously been involved in a few Six Nations campaigns before but I’m really looking forward to getting the start – I’m just going out there to do my job and help the team in the best way I can.”

In Sexton’s absence, James Ryan will lead the team and Farrell wants to see the senior players stepping up to the plate. The Ireland head coach feels this is important in taking the game to the French: “Ownership, taking control of their team, thinking a little bit differently. Not just turning up, but having an opinion of where they’re at and how they feel,” he said when asked what he wants to see from his main men.

“The ownership keeps growing and we keep benefiting from that.”

France coach Fabien Galthie has made two changes to his side, with Bordeaux’s Yoram Moefana coming in for the injured Jonathan Danty as Fabien Cros comes into the back-row.

The home side will deploy a six/two split of forwards and backs on the bench and will be hoping powerful athletes like Cyrille Baille, Julien Marchand, Uini Atonio, Demba Bamba, Cameron Woki, Paul Willemse and Romain Taofifenua can dominate physically across 80 minutes.

“We’ve to play our own game,” Farrell said of the physical threat France bring to the table. “That’s the way we’re thinking.

“We’ve got to be brave enough to play the game how we want to play and not get distracted with thoughts like that.

“We fell into that trap before against big, physical sides and we’ve not been composed enough to play our game. We have learned some lessons along the way with that.”

Ireland go to the Stade de France knowing the next time they are at the Saint-Denis venue will be the World Cup clash against South Africa next year.

If they progress from the pool, they could face the hosts on home soil in a quarter-final.

“We want to lay down markers everywhere we go,” Farrell said.

“I know you guys (the press) are always going to see this as the big one but last week was a big one for us, this week is a big one and then we roll on to a fallow week and take a break, and the next one is a big one. So we just want to keep being ourselves and growing as a group.”

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