Jordan Larmour focusing on doing the simple things well . . . really well

Winger credits Leinster coach Felipe Contepomi with new approach to game

As the stars of other wingers shone more brightly, notably Mack Hansen and latterly Jimmy O’Brien, it was as if Jordan Larmour had become something of a forgotten man. But, on returning from a hip flexor injury which sidelined him for 10 weeks, in his last two comeback outings the 24-year-old has reminded everyone that on his day few Irish players have Larmour’s ability to break open a game.

At fullback against Munster, Larmour beat 14 defenders in making 105 metres from his eight carries, including two clean breaks. His elusiveness left a trail of red jerseys flailing in his wake like something out of a cartoon, notably in the build-up to two of Leinster’s tries.

Larmour lit up the evening to such an extent that there was a hum of expectation whenever he received the ball and an audible groan when on one occasion he opted to kick.

But just when we again thought fullback is Larmour’s best position, against Glasgow last Saturday on the right wing he carved it up to an even greater degree.

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Admittedly Glasgow’s passive defence had more holes than the proverbial soup strainer but even so in beating seven defenders (it seemed like more but he does this so frequently it’s hard to keep up with him) he made 137 metres off 15 carries, and in addition to another four clean line breaks there were two tries and two try assists.

Larmour seemed, well, like Larmour again, trusting his instincts and backing himself.

“I probably wasn’t trying to overthink things, or make things happen. When I was out injured, I said when I came back I’d just focus on doing the simple things really well, then those big moments come and you just have to be ready to take them ...

“I think it was important for me to not go chasing holes and trying to make things happen, just focus on my own job, do the simple things well and those moments will come on the back of working hard.”

After what he describes as “a stop-starty season” which began, and was interrupted, by injuries, Larmour knew he had ground to make up, and credits Felipe Contepmi for helping him with his mental approach.

“Felipe is very good. He likes you to focus on what your strengths are and put yourself on the pitch where you’re going to get into those positions. If you’re coming off ‘10′, he’s telling you to get yourself in those positions as much as possible. For me like trying to beat defenders one on one, trying to find mismatches, things like that. Felipe has been very good with me, chatting through all that.”

Maybe it’s an impression falsely created by the top-of-the-ground, end-of-season conditions, but Larmour looks a little leaner as well, lighter on his feet.

“It’s hard when you’re playing games every week to smash the gym sessions. Whenever you get injured, it’s a chance to chase strength, muscle mass or get leaner and things like that. So, from that perspective, injuries are good. I work closely with all of the S&C staff and I’m physically good at the moment, no little niggles or anything like that. Everything seems to have settled and I hope it stays that way.”

One ventures that the Leinster think tank perhaps regret not having Larmour on the bench in the Champions Cup final, but the player himself sensed his lack of game time would see him miss out on the matchday squad in Marseille.

He’s also sanguine about his preferred position, maintaining he loves playing both at fullback and on the wing. In his first three seasons with Leinster he made 27 of his 42 starts at fullback, but that outing against Munster was only his second in the last two seasons at 15.

Interestingly though, his try-scoring strike rate is much better on the wing, where he has scored 19 tries in 34 games (at a rate of 1.78) as against six in 29 games at fullback (at a rate of 4.83), along with two more as a replacement.

In any event, no one wants the season to carry on more than Larmour, and in addition to the prize of a home final in the URC on Saturday week should they overcome the Bulls at the RDS on Friday (kick-off 7.35pm), a continuation of his form in his last two appearances should see him return to the Irish squad for the tour to New Zealand.

He started Andy Farrell’s first three matches in charge in the 2020 Six Nations but has since only won six caps, four off the bench, and the most recent was against Japan last summer.

“Yeah, look, it’s definitely in the back of my mind. Everyone would love to be on the plane but I think it’s just important I focus on this week, put my hand up for selection and hopefully get selected this weekend. I’m not looking too far ahead of this weekend because I want to be playing, and playing well. So all of my focus is on now.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times