Ireland head coach Andy Farrell says they need to be patient with Joey Carbery's return to form.
The Munster out-half has produced three mixed displays for the province this season, but has retained his place in the Ireland squad for next month's games against Japan, New Zealand and Argentina.
Carbery returned from a long-term ankle injury last February, playing 11 times for club and country before the summer break.
The 25-year-old looked to be finding some of his old form by the time he returned to the Ireland shirt for the games against USA and Japan in July, but has struggled at times in the United Rugby Championship this season.
While he scored a match-winning penalty in his last appearance against Connacht, his place-kicking has been inconsistent, and there have also been uncharacteristic mistakes, such as his intercept pass against the Sharks, and his blocked clearance kick by Jack Carty which led to a try in the Interpro against Connacht.
However, Farrell says he's happy to remain patient.
"Just a bit more time and experience under his belt I would have thought," Farrell said.
"The kid's been out for an awful long time and he's worked extremely hard to get to this stage.
"He had a handful of games towards the end of the year (season) and we brought him back into the international scene to see where he's at. Then, it breaks up and he's waiting to get going again. It's tough, it's a tough old cycle for him, isn't it?
"He'll pick things up off the likes of Johnny (Sexton) and use that to his advantage."
Speaking of Sexton (above), Farrell sounded open-minded at the prospect of the Ireland captain continuing to play through to the World Cup when he will be 38-years-old.
Sexton is out of contract at the end of this season, and while Farrell wouldn't speculate on whether or not he would be given another deal, he said the player's form will dictate whether or not he continues to play.
"It's pretty straightforward. Is Johnny playing well?," he asked.
"Is Johnny hungry to keep being motivated to put the boots on every single day and keep wanting to get better? Is Johnny fit and healthy over the next couple of years?
"We'll see how things unfold, we've got a great relationship and we'll keep talking on that front.
"Things will be as simple as that."
The Ireland head coach hinted that his side are exploring how they can work the new 50:22 law into their game, a law that Farrell says he's "loved" during its short sample size.
He's also confident his players won't be undercooked for the first Test match window of the season.
With the Heineken Champions Cup not starting until December, Irish players have had just five rounds of URC games to get up to speed on the new season.
And with most of Ireland's Lions contingent playing either one of two games to date, many of his squad are still working off a relatively low work-load in the campaign.
"The challenge is getting them up to speed but that's the world we live in and there are no excuses from our side, no whinging from our side.
"The Lions players, did they come back later than others? Maybe by a week or so but what we can do is fast forward to the end of the season and think we definitely should have looked after those boys way back then and now we’re paying for it.
"It’s our duty to look after our players and do the right thing my them and, at the same time, we met in September, they knew the lie of the land that was going to happen.
"They’ve been training away in the background. They’re going to have two more weeks of intense training here and they’ll be ready to go.
"As I said, that’s the world we live in. When a Lions year comes about, we have to do the right thing by our players. We feel that we are doing that. Still there is no excuses for us."
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