Ireland head coach Andy Farrell says Joey Carbery needs space and time to get fully back to speed ahead of the out-half's long-awaited return to action tonight.

Carbery looks primed to make his first appearance in over a year for Munster against Cardiff Blues in the Guinness Pro14 having endured a nightmare period with injuries.

The 25-year-old out-half has played just two games since suffering an ankle injury before the 2019 World Cup.

He hasn't been in action at all since the match against Ulster on 3 January last year, but he has been named on the bench for tonight's trip to Wales.

It's a major boost for the player, his province and indeed country. He won't feature in this spring's Guinness Six Nations, but if Carbery can string a run of games together with Munster without any setbacks then the questions over who will be Johnny Sexton's long-term successor at No 10 may become easier to answer.

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"I'm absolutely delighted for Joey," Farrell said. "I know first hand what he's been through the last couple of years.

"He has worked so hard to try and get back. On a few occasions it's not happened for him. I'd like to praise all the medical team that's looked after him in Munster and the IRFU . 

"It's brought him to a place where he's comfortable and super excited about getting back on the field. What we need to be cautious about is giving Joey time.

"He's been out so long. He's so keen to get back in there to do well.

"If you give him the room and the time, let him get a number of games under his belt, I'm sure Joey will come back to be the player we all know he's going to be."

Sexton starts at 10 for Ireland against Italy on Saturday afternoon, with Billy Burns as back-up.

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