Joey Carbery has promised to keep pushing Johnny Sexton for Ireland's starting fly-half role following his match-winning cameo against New Zealand.
Carbery stepped off the bench to slot three crucial late penalties – including a monster kick from halfway – as Ireland secured a statement 29-20 success over the All Blacks at a jubilant Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
The 26-year-old has been restricted to just four international appearances since the 2019 World Cup due to injury, in addition to competing with talismanic captain Sexton for a starting berth.
With head coach Andy Farrell expected to make changes for next weekend’s autumn finale at home to Argentina, the Munster man is in line to be given a chance to shine from the off.
"If I keep working on my game and taking little bits from Johnny and keep improving and stay injury-free then hopefully I will be in a good place," said Carbery.
"And, if the time comes, I’ll be happy to step up.
"It’s tough (being back up), especially when he’s playing well week in, week out. But all I can do is train, improve myself, get better each week and see where that brings me.
"I think we’re both different people; I think we’re both different players the way we play.
"Obviously, I can learn a huge amount from Johnny because he’s done it, seen everything.
"I think anyone would want to (start more) but I haven’t been available through injury for the last two years for the Six Nations games.
"When I’m fit and available for a game, I try to put my hand up. I just have to keep doing my job. There’s always room to improve."
A monster punt from Joey Carbery who restores Ireland's six-point advantage. Two vital kicks from the Munster out-half since his introduction— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) November 13, 2021
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Carbery, who came on with 15 minutes remaining on Saturday afternoon after Sexton suffered a twisted knee, immediately converted the first of his three penalties.
His final kick marked the end of a pulsating contest and brought a deafening noise from the delirious terraces followed by a well-deserved lap of honour.
The memorable occasion was even more special for Carbery, given he was born in New Zealand and still has grandparents, aunties and cousins living in Auckland.
"I’m very happy – delighted just to be able to help and go out there and get on the pitch and do my job," he said.
"I was just trying to stay as calm as I can really. I needed to kick the kicks and try to keep as level-headed as much as possible and stick to everything I’d done in the week.
"(It was) such a tough Test match to come on with a little bit to do and I’m pretty happy with how it went.
"It’s pretty cool to play against the All Blacks and to chat to them (New Zealand-based family) before and after the game.
"They were up early watching the game. I’ve had a few text messages saying well done."
Sexton received on-field treatment in the first half and eventually limped off, having kicked five points but missed two conversions.
Asked about the knock, the 36-year-old said it was "hopefully OK", before praising his understudy.
"Obviously a special word for Joey, to come on and kick three good goals," said Sexton.
"He’s been out for so long and I was chuffed for him.
"I honestly wish I was there doing it but I was chuffed for him."