Tuesday, May 21, 2024

‘I’ll stick with the rugby’ – Ireland powerhouse shuts down NFL talk

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Ireland supporters can breathe a sigh of relief as Joe McCarthy insists he won’t be following Louis Rees-Zammit in chasing an NFL career, despite his love for the sport.

The 23-year-old Wales winger shocked the rugby world last month when he announced he would be leaving the XV-man game for a chance at making it in American Football.

Rees-Zammit is a massive supporter of the NFL, and that is also the case for Ireland forward McCarthy, who has been in superb form in the opening Six Nations rounds.

Two starts from two

Backing up his consistent performances for Leinster, the second-row has nailed down a starting jersey for Andy Farrell’s side and looks set for a successful international career.

However, McCarthy has links to the USA after being born in New York and admits he is a huge fan of the NFL, with the 2024 Super Bowl having just taken place in Las Vegas.

The 22-year-old watched Sunday’s game, in which the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers in overtime, and revealed his love for the sport, especially the defence.

“I love the defensive side of the game, probably like it more than the attack sometimes,” he said, as Ireland and the other five Six Nations teams enjoy a welcome week’s rest.

“They say defence wins championships, so it is good.

“I love getting off the line, I love pressuring teams, love getting them ‘man and ball’, getting in at rucks. I like watching the defensive players in NFL, like seeing the stuff they do.

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“At the moment I like Maxx Crosby from the (Las Vegas) Raiders. I liked JJ Watt (former Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals defensive end) when he played. He is a beast, or was, he is retired now.

“I don’t think I’ll be changing over to the NFL any time soon. I’ll stick with the rugby.”

McCarthy, who was part of Ireland’s Rugby World Cup squad last year, has now moved up the pecking order in the team in 2024 and admits that brings increased scrutiny.

“There is way more attention in the Six Nations, you can feel it, much more than club games,” he said.

Great opportunity

“It is good, you are getting a lot of nice mentions. You’re trying to block it out and just go back to the process.

“I felt I was ready to go at that stage (in the 2023 Six Nations) but an ankle injury kept me out for a few months. That happens.

“It’s great to get an opportunity now, and I am looking forward to it.”

Farrell’s outfit are currently sitting atop of the Six Nations standings on 10 points from their two opening games and return to action against Wales in Dublin next Saturday.

READ MORE: Six Nations law discussion: Luke Pearce’s stock continues to rise after classy showing during Ireland v Italy

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