JOE McCARTHY wants to make NFL-style hits – but he insisted there is no chance of him ditching rugby for American football.
After claiming the man-of-the-match award against France the previous week, the lock again caught the eye against the Azzurri, driving Paolo Garbisi with a big hit.
And the 22-year-old said: “I love the defensive side of the game, probably like it more than the attack sometimes. The say defence win 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.
“At the moment I like Max Crosbie from the Raiders. I liked JJ Watt when he played. He is a beast, or was, he is retired now.”
As for a team, McCarthy said: “I was born in New York so I’d probably say Giants.
“The Jets had Aaron Rogers so I’d suppose I’d say a New York team but I am not a crazy big follower.”
And he is not planning on following in the footsteps of Wales star Louis Rees-Zammit who, on the eve of the Six Nations, walked out on his contract at Gloucester in a bid to earn an NFL contract for this year.
He is on the 10-week International Player Pathway programme and has been training as a wide receiver and also doing some running back drills.
Rees-Zammit said: “There’s a lot of transferable skills over from rugby. I’m absolutely loving training and I’m excited to see what the next 10 weeks holds.”
But McCarthy said: “I don’t think I’ll be changing over the NFL any time soon. I’ll stick with the rugby.”
His Six Nations breakthrough came 12 months later than he would have liked, having been included in Andy Farrell’s initial squad last year.
He said: “I felt I was ready to go at that stage but an ankle injury kept me out for a few months. That happens. It’s great to get an opportunity now.”
Despite that delay, he is on the road to being a superstar in that sport with the Netflix cameras following him closely in anticipation of a second series of their fly-on-the-wall Six Nations documentary.
It is just one example of his higher profile and he admitted: He said: “There is way more attention in the Six Nations, you can feel it, much more than club games.
“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.”
That prompted him to try to keep a low profile when, on the eve of the match against Italy, he made the short walk from the Shelbourne Hotel to watch younger brother Paddy, a prop in Leinster’s Academy, line out for Dublin University against Cork Con in the AIL.
The second row said: “He was lighting up a few lads. He’d usually be putting a few good shots on and say ‘Joe try and match that’.
“There is always a bit of competition between us even when we are not saying it to one another. One of us has a performance we try and outdo each other a bit. Defence is something that has always been in our game.”
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And, so, there was a lot of job satisfaction at shutting out Italy, the first time Ireland had done that to an opponent in the Five or Six Nations in 37 years.
He said: “I suppose we were happy enough to keep them to zero. We placed a lot of emphasis on our defence this week, they had a very good attack, so we are pretty happy with zero. We kept going after them. “