Irishman Jack Carty again in love with rugby before the Six Nations
Recalled Ireland fly-half Jack Carty says he no longer feels the weight of the world on his shoulders as he nears the end of his international exile.
In form, Carty is in contention for his first Test action since the 2019 World Cup after being included in Andy Farrell’s 37-man Six Nations squad.
The 29-year-old, who admits to struggling to perform on his return from the world tournament in Japan, has been a standout player for Connacht this season, including topping the United Rugby Championship individual points chart.
Having rediscovered his love for the game, he is ready to compete with captain Johnny Sexton and Joey Carbery for the Irish number 10 shirt.
“At the start, when I came back from the World Cup, my form wasn’t good enough to warrant a selection,” he said.
“Before, I was so determined to achieve that end goal that maybe off the pitch I was probably a disaster at times.
“I think the best time I play is when I have a smile on my face. If I can organize things off the pitch to be where they need to be, that allows me to excel and to do what I want on the pitch.
“When I played rugby for many years I probably looked like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders, whereas now I really love what I do.
“I appreciate this new environment, it was great, the guys were really welcoming.”
Carty, who is with Ireland during a pre-tournament training camp in Portugal, won each of his previous 10 caps in 2019 under former head coach Joe Schmidt.
He received a late call from Farrell in November after Sexton was left out of the last autumn Ireland international but did not make the matchday squad for the win over Argentina.
Ireland will start the Six Nations Tournament next Saturday at home against defending champions Wales.
Carty, who agrees to dislodge the influential skipper Sexton will be a challenge, does not believe he has anything to prove.
“I don’t think so, certainly not myself anyway,” he said. “The story so far probably goes back to the World Cup and maybe it would be nice to close that chapter, if I step onto the pitch. It’s been a long journey, up and down.
“Every player goes through periods in their career where there are periods of not being selected and I think it’s about how you learn about it.
“I think I learned a lot about myself. It’s great to be back in the setup and hopefully the next few weeks will be good for me.
Ireland won plenty of plaudits for their performances over the fall, including their win over New Zealand en route to extending their winning streak to eight games.
Speaking of the competition for places, Carty added: “Johnny has been there, he’s been there, he’s captain, so I think if and when he’s fit he’ll start.
“For me it’s about if the opportunity comes, I need to have the confidence and the authority around me that Johnny gives, then that will give confidence to all the other players.
“A lot of things we try to do in Connacht – obviously there are things that are different – but the key principles part is certainly something similar to how we try to play here.”