Timely boost as Carty commits to Connacht

Good news for Connacht: Jack Carty, enjoying his rugby and leadership role at Connacht, signs on for another three years.   Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Good news for Connacht: Jack Carty, enjoying his rugby and leadership role at Connacht, signs on for another three years. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Connacht Rugby return to action tomorrow evening (7.35pm ) in the Galway Sportsground ready to take on Welsh visitors Ospreys.

Toby Booth's side arrives in the west of Ireland sitting fifth in the URC table. Four wins from five sees them four places ahead of Andy Friend's Connacht, whose focus now is very much on making use of home advantage to close the gap on the top teams.

It is not insurmountable. Ospreys have not shown the same attacking enterprise as previous years, but under new CEO, former Manchester City executive Nick Garcia, there is a positive mood in the Swansea camp as he aims to make the club into a "rugby powerhouse".

However, Connacht have been boosted this week with news of Jack Carty's decision to pen a new three year-deal - a "special man, Connacht born and bred, really important in Conancht's future who continues to grow as a player on and off the field", according to Andy Friend.

"He has relished being a captain this year, stepped into it with ease and comfort, and taken his game to another level."

Carty appears in a good place right now. Although only called into the recent Ireland camp as cover following Johnny Sexton's injury, he is now revelling in both his leadership role with Connacht, and playing fast attacking rugby.

The 29-years-old, who penned a three-year extension to his Connacht contract, is enjoying his improvement "as a player, and as a leader", while also being close to his family in Athlone where his post-playing future awaits in his family's meat business.

He also believes the current squad is as good as that in 2016 when it won the PRO12 trophy under Pat Lam, and with a new pitch and stadium on the horizon, Carty did not want to have any regrets if he left.

"I am enjoying where we [Connacht] are and where we are going," he says. "I wouldn't be the biggest talker, but I like to think I lead by my actions, and from that Munster game I thought I showed that by getting stuck in and the relationships you have with the refs, being a presence, I clearly enjoyed it. I'd like to think it has benefited my game, because I'm more engaged."

Not always comfortable with leadership - believing it "took away from what I was trying to do as player" - he says it is a different Connacht now. "The way we are playing, it does feel there are lots of game managers on the pitch. There is a collective understanding of what we are trying to do. Once it was maybe down to nines and 10s to manage, but now there are five or six players, so it allows me to look after speaking to referees and my own performance."

Enjoying Connacht's new attacking game, Carty is "getting hands on the ball, asking questions of defenders, and looking for kick space".

"The element of the running game is definitely something that I have enjoyed, and carrying the ball to the line and putting players through holes. I just feel I have freedom maybe that I did not have before."

Outstanding form

Connacht coach Andy Friend says if Carty's form continues, it will be hard to omit him from future Ireland fixtures. "Having suffered some hurdles that he has overcome, Jack has continued to grow and develop his game, both on and off the field, becoming an integral part of the team.

"His form this year has been outstanding. I think he has really come into his own with his kicking game. The 50:22 law is made for Jack because he has a beautiful long kick. I think the way he has adapted to the new attacking style, carrying the ball has been impressive, and his defence, which was probably previously an area that you could say needed to improve, he has been as brave as all this year and that's been great to watch.

"I also know the Irish coaches do see that, and also he has had feedback from them. At the end of the day Carty and Andy don't select the team, but the longer Jack Carty puts on those sorts of performances consistently, the harder it is to leave him out I believe."

Out of action this weekend are three key players with knee injuries - Bundee Aki, John Porch, who has had "minor surgery", and Tom Daly, nursing an injury since the Ulster fixture. Gavin Thornbury and Denis Buckley continue their rehabilitation, while back in training are Cian Prendergast, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy and Dominic Robertson-McCoy.


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