Ronan O’Gara: Joey Carbery could have been Ireland’s Beauden Barrett

Ronan O’Gara: Joey Carbery could have been Ireland’s Beauden Barrett

TOULON must have that sense of foreboding when travelling to the bottom side in the Top 14, Montpellier, last Sunday. Anytime a former manager or coach is around to meet and greet, there’s something in the book of karma that predetermines they will do a number on their old colleagues. 

In Montpellier’s case, they had three old Toulon boys in their ranks – Bernard Laporte, Patrice Collazo and Louis Carbonel. Signs on, Montpellier kept themselves in touch with the four sides above them in the ladder with a shock 27-17 win. What has that to do with anything, you may well wonder, but this week Toulon are stewing and gunning for whoever fronts up next – it’s in keeping with Munster’s luck at the moment that they are the ones in the crosshairs, with their European hopes on the line and bearing their own crosses.

This is the strange period in the club calendar, like a cross of four roads. The Six Nations is only three weeks away but the two most decisive weeks in Europe are upon us all. This at a time when all clubs are juggling budgets and resources with a view to next season’s rosters, while not forgetting the bread and butter of ensuring that Top 14 ambitions are simmering away on the back burner.

That’s why you’re reading so much activity and speculation around marquee players like Owen Farrell and Joey Carbery in the last week. Their proposed Top 14 destinations have been advertised, but there’s nothing confirmed and there won’t be from the clubs in question. That’s the prerogative of the purchasers as and when it suits.

France is where it’s at right now. Unlike other major rugby leagues in world rugby, it’s all in the one country, it’s a unique lifestyle and culture and there’s a lot of security in the fact that players are guaranteed their pay cheque every month. It’s not like Joey Carbery isn’t well paid at home but a lot of circumstances have conspired to make a move to France a good play for the Munster playmaker. For one, his wife has connections in France and when he was mulling over whether a change of career direction was in order, the fact that there would be no family obstacles might have been the clincher. The Nouvelle-Aquitaine region is beautiful, but it has to be a career decision

…. to be continued
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