Jordan Larmour in line for Test debut against Italy

Ireland kicking coach Richie Murphy says Leinster youngster ‘very close’ to being ready

Jordan Larmour during training. Skills and kicking coach Richie Murphy said he’s “learning very quickly”. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Jordan Larmour during training. Skills and kicking coach Richie Murphy said he’s “learning very quickly”. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

Jordan Larmour is in line to make his Test debut for Ireland against Italy in their Six Nations encounter at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, amid a growing feeling that the uncapped 20-year-old Leinster outside back will be named in the match-day squad when it is announced on Thursday.

Larmour didn’t make his senior debut until Leinster’s Guinness Pro14 seasonal opener at home to the Dragons last September, when scoring a try, and such has been his stunning form that despite only starting nine competitive games, his inclusion in the Irish squad for the opening two rounds of the Six Nations was with an eye to him being involved next Saturday.

In his 14 outings for Leinster to date, including five off the bench, Larmour has scored six tries – including a couple of eye-catching long-range finishes in the interpro wins away to Ulster and Leinster.

Larmour started both of his province’s last two European Champions Cup games against Glasgow and Montpellier, at fullback and right wing and when asked if the youngster was ready to make his Test debut at the squad’s base in Carton House on Tuesday, skills and kicking coach Richie Murphy said: “He is very close to being ready.

“He has come in over the last couple of weeks and done very well,” added Murphy. “He’s learning very quickly. It is just a matter of whether it is right this week or not and that will come down to the selection process but we are not looking at him and saying ‘he’s not ready’.”

Talented

Larmour is part of a new wave of talented young players emerging from Leinster especially, James Ryan having earned his fifth cap, and first start in the Six Nations last week, while Joey Carbery is likely to have more involvement than was the case in Paris where he remained an unused replacement.

Although Carbery is ostensibly covering fullback as well, Murphy made it clear that Carbery is primarily regarded as an outhalf, and to that end has been running there in training.  

“Definitely it [fullback] is being considered. When he’s sitting on the bench, he’s not only covering ‘10’, we know that he can slot in to ‘15’ pretty easily and he’s played a lot of his rugby there. So it’s definitely something we’ve considered.”

Carbery could provide Ireland with a second playmaker role in tandem with Sexton as opposed to solely being his understudy and putative replacement, and Murphy said: “It’s just trying to get the balance right isn’t it? Obviously Rob [Kearney] gives us a massive amount of certainty at fullback with his aerial skills and stuff like that.

“So it’s just a matter of trying to fit the players into the backline that we feel are ready to bring us forward from week to week.”

Although Joe Schmidt admitted that they had Carbery warming up with a view to replacing Sexton, the decision to keep their outhalf on was, eh, more than handsomely vindicated, and Murphy said of Sexton: “He’s fine – not a bother on him.”

Understandable pride

Murphy also took understandable pride as well as joy in the outhalf’s execution of those three endgame kicks – his 22 metre restart for Iain Henderson to claim, the pinpoint kick pass across field to Keith Earls and the match-winning drop goal.   

“I have known Johnny a very long time, 12 years maybe, and I can think of definitely over the last eight years hundreds of drop goals being hit after practice. For young kids who are out there you have to make sure you do your extras.

“It was an incredible moment. I lost the rag on the sideline,” said Murphy, adding: “The minute he hit it I knew it was over. I was actually half way out in the middle of the pitch looking at it. But no I wasn’t in the pile on.”

All that said and done, Murphy admitted: “We were probably a little bit inaccurate in some of our kicking game, a couple of balls too long, and a couple of balls too short.” The failure to score tries also rankled.

“We are not happy we played a game in France and didn’t come away with any tries. We’re not in this to just kick penalties and drop goals, so our focus will be to try and tighten up that attack a little bit and try and apply enough pressure to Italy and make sure that those options are put away this week.”

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