Joey Carbery has declared himself finally fully fit and ready to repay Ireland’s faith for taking him to the World Cup when carrying an ankle injury.
The Munster fly-half revealed training fully and without impediment on Tuesday was a “huge confidence boost” ahead of Saturday’s Pool A decider against Samoa in Fukuoka.
Carbery almost missed the World Cup with the ankle ligament injury he suffered in August’s victory over Italy in Dublin, but was backed by boss Joe Schmidt to shake off that blow while out in Japan.
The 23-year-old came off the bench in the 19-12 loss to the host nation but then aggravated his ankle issue and was a late withdrawal from the bonus-point win over Russia.
But now the former Leinster playmaker insists he is ready to strike back to top form, admitting it is time to pay back Ireland’s coaches for bringing him to the World Cup in the first place.
“Hopefully I’m 100 per cent now, it has been quite a frustrating year with injuries,” said Carbery.
“But I’m fully back now and feel back to myself as I was. So that’s a huge confidence boost for me and I suppose I can just get back out there and do what I’ve been doing.
“I suppose with the timing of the injury just before we left for Japan, and the nature of it as well, it was always going to be a bit of a frustration.
“But to be honest I was lucky enough even to be considered and that I did enough to get on the plane.
“The coaches showed a lot of faith in me and I’m very grateful for it.
“I want to repay that faith now. I want to go out and do the job and show them that they weren’t wrong; that’s definitely in the back of my mind.”
Regular fly-half Carbery was due to cover scrum-half from the bench for the Russia clash, but pulled out late on due to a minor recurrence of that ankle concern.
Ireland subdued the Russians 35-0 in Kobe to set up a group decider against Samoa, where another bonus-point victory will secure their qualification for the quarter-finals.
Carbery explained his latest ankle niggle was never anything serious, but enough of a problem to prove an unwanted distraction.
“I had a little bit of a setback last week which was frustrating,” he said.
“But I’m feeling really good this week, it was nothing major last week, so I’m in a good spot.
“The ankle just took a bang, nothing more than that. That just made the joint all sticky, there was nothing serious at all it just needed a couple of days to settle down.
“So it was obviously annoying to miss out on game time but thankfully it was nothing serious.”
Carbery kicked the ball to touch to signal the end of last month’s shock 19-12 loss to Japan in Shizuoka.
The New Zealand-born playmaker still believes he made the right decision in opting to protect Ireland’s losing bonus point, which could yet prove crucial in the qualification race for the quarter-finals.
“I knew we had the bonus-point secured and there wasn’t too much on for us, so at the time I thought the best thing would be to kick it out,” said Carbery.
“And yes, I think that was the right call. I didn’t want to do anything silly as well: maybe they could have got the ball back and taken the bonus-point away from us.”
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Billy Vunipola appears increasing unlikely to play any part in England’s final World Cup group game against France.
Vunipola injured his left ankle in Saturday’s bonus-point victory over Argentina and after repeatedly receiving treatment on the pitch, was withdrawn at half-time and has undergone a scan.
While refusing to rule him out of the climax to Pool C against France, attack coach Scott Wisemantel revealed that the Saracens number eight has been doing recovery and rehabilitation work instead of training with the rest of Eddie Jones’ squad.
Having already qualified for the quarter-finals, England are able to make a number of changes knowing Saturday’s clash at International Stadium Yokohama decides only who finishes top of Pool C.
Vunipola, the team’s most potent forward ball carrier, is the only player to have started all 12 of this year’s Tests and his value to Jones means his fitness will not be gambled on.
“We’re being overly cautious. If there’s any risk he will not be 100 per cent he won’t play, but I don’t know the outcome of the scan. If there’s any risk, we won’t risk him,” Wisemantel said.
Tom Curry slotted in at number eight when Vunipola limped off against France, but Mark Wilson is favourite to fill the void before the knockout phase begins against Wales or Australia.
“We still have a luxury of carriers. Billy has been terrific for us, but he missed the autumn recently and Mark Wilson was the player of that series,” scrum-half Ben Youngs said.
“Billy does suck in lots of defenders and he’s a great carrier for us, but those other guys carry the ball differently because of the lines they pick. They are a bit more subtle about where they pop up.
“We’re blessed with some of the back rows that we have got, but we’re very confident they’ll carry us on to the front foot.”
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Australia coach Michael Cheika has made wholesale changes to his Wallabies side to face Georgia on Friday, resting captain Michael Hooper as he eyes a potential quarter-final blockbuster against England or France.
Only four players survive from the starting XV that beat Uruguay 45-10 on Saturday with Cheika shifting the exciting teenager Jordan Petaia from left to right wing and veteran flanker David Pocock taking the captain’s armband.
The hulking Petaia, Australia’s youngest ever World Cup player at 19, impressed against the South Americans, crashing over for one try and creating another.
Cheika also moved Matt To’omua from inside centre to fly-half in what will be a first combination with scrum-half Nic White and the 11th half-back pairing used by Australia since the 2015 World Cup.
Up front, it will be a special day for prop Sekope Kepu, who will become only the sixth player to win 110 caps for Australia.
Former skipper regains the armband in the absence of his “pooper” partner-in-crime Hooper, who is rested ahead of the possible last-eight clash in Oita.
Hooper will be on the bench for only the seventh time in his career. He will win his 99th cap if he comes onto the pitch.
Friday’s encounter will be the first Test meeting between Australia and Georgia.