Rugby Schmidt keeping fingers crossed for Carbery

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Ireland 29 Italy 10 – the winners and losers

This was shaping into the easiest analysis piece to write: Joey Carbery rips open the debate about pillars of this Ireland team. Carbery is too slick, so natural a ball player, too gifted for Johnny Sexton or Rob Kearney to continue in the starting XV, right?

Roll on the healthiest debate imaginable over the coming weeks. The Carbery drums would beat at every opportunity and in response new levels of magnificence would come from Sexton and Kearney as the veterans hold tight to their jerseys.

Instead, we have the sorry sight of Carbery being unable to put weight on his left ankle. The lack of a fracture is no news at all as 48 hours is required to establish how badly his ligaments have been damaged.

“The good news with Joey is there is no fracture – it’s a bit puffy on the inside of his left ankle,” said Ireland coach Joe Schmidt after initial x-ray results. “He has a bit of swelling, so we will give that 24, 48 hours to let that go down and get it scanned again. If we don’t think it’s too bad he’ll rehab in Portugal ahead of the England game. If not England, hopefully Wales.

“It’s too soon to say (for sure), but I don’t think it’ll keep him out of the World Cup.”

Carbery suffered a similar injury after a stunning performance against Scotland during the Six Nations. It changed the narrative then as it does now. The 23-year-old doesn’t have a few months to recover, he has three weeks, maybe less.

It means Ireland cannot join the rare ranks of nations that boast two play-makers in their backline. The All Blacks are struggling with a similar fate since Damian McKenzie pulled up lame.

We are left with the memory of Carbery being carted off the field – upset etched all over his face – on day one of a World Cup campaign that suddenly promises a little less than before.

“I was really happy with Joey’s performance,” said Schmidt. “I thought he ran the game really well . . . He is still building his game but unfortunately he has had a few injuries this year t

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