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Larmour the latest exciting prospect off Leinster's remarkable conveyor belt

“He definitely has something a bit special,” says Leo Cullen.

WHILE BITTERLY DISAPPOINTING at the time, missing this summer’s Junior World Championship through injury has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Jordan Larmour as he prepares to make his senior debut for Leinster today [KO 3.15pm, Sky Sports].

Jordan Larmour scores a try Larmour scored two tries during pre-season. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The 20-year-old was one of the outstanding performers in the U20 Six Nations and his loss was a massive blow for Ireland in Georgia, but the time off allowed him to recharge the batteries and enter pre-season with the province full tilt.

Six weeks and three friendly games later, Larmour is preparing to start on the wing in this afternoon’s Guinness Pro14 opener against Dragons at Rodney Parade. It has been a remarkable rise for the former St Andrew’s College student, although it hardly comes as a surprise.

Anyone who watched him on the wing or at fullback during the Six Nations is fully aware of his ability to cut through opposition defences and he emerged as arguably Ireland’s most influential and destructive player.

Rated highly by Joe Schmidt, who watched on as Larmour scored a second-half brace against Gloucester a fortnight ago and again perform well during last week’s win over Bath, the former schoolboy hockey international is one of the most exciting prospects at Leinster.

“He definitely has something a bit special,” Leo Cullen said of Larmour at the Pro14 launch.

“He’s very level headed, he works hard and goes about his business. He has that, how would I describe it…it’s almost like that love for the game. He’s competitive by nature and everything he does and he comes in to compete.

“When he comes into Leinster every day he’s in there to compete and it’s great to see those guys progress if they have that attitude to start off with.”

The door for Larmour opened after Fergus McFadden pulled up with a calf injury during the week, but even still he will pull on the number 11 jersey later today on merit on the back of impressing Cullen, Stuart Lancaster and Girvan Dempsey over the last 12 months.

He was one of 15 academy players used during the pre-season period, a statistic which underlines Leinster’s willingness to nurture, develop and then expose young players to the highest level. If they’re good enough, they’re old enough.

Max Deegan Max Deegan starts at number eight for Leinster. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Larmour stood out, as did the likes of Caelan Doris, Ronan Kelleher, Will Connors, Jimmy O’Brien and Josh Murphy. Only five players on the academy roster didn’t feature at some point during the three friendlies, largely because of unavailability or injury.

And having seen Rory McLoughlin, Joey Carbery, Andrew Porter and James Ryan among others grasp their opportunity last season and then become internationals, there is a real pathway there for those young guns to stake a claim and force their way into the reckoning.

“One of the things we try to work on here is working with the younger players as much as possible during pre-season and we’ve used 15 academy players during the three pre-season games and that’s an unbelievable experience for those guys,” Cullen continued.

“It’s one of the things we work so hard at, the depth and giving young players the exposure as early as possible. It’s a fantastic experience for them.

“They’re all the future. We put a huge amount of resources and time into the young players. It’s a credit to the academy that they’re ready when they step into the senior squad year-on-year. They show positive characteristics in the way they want to learn.”

Max Deegan graduated to a senior contract at the end of last season and is another shining example of the remarkable system and conveyor belt which exists at Leinster. As a breeding ground for young rugby players, it’s hard to think of any club superior.

The number eight, off the back of an impressive showing over the last few weeks, starts this afternoon in a Leinster team containing no shortage of international experience despite the calibre of player unavailable to Cullen: Rob Kearney, Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Josh van der Flier are all back, and there is the small matter of a debut for Scott Fardy.

Leinster, in truth, should have too much for the hosts at Rodney Parade, but given it’s the opening weekend and this is something of a fresh start for the Dragons, the eastern province aren’t taking the challenge lightly.

Now coached by former Leinster hooker Bernard Jackman, the Welsh region have made changes both on and off the field during the summer and will have Gavin Henson and ex-Leinster fullback Zane Kirchner in their side today.

Bernard Jackman, Leo Cullen and Jamie Heaslip Former team-mates Jackman and Cullen go head-to-head today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Birch [Jackman] knows us better than anybody, he spent a lot of time here as a player and knows a lot of the guys very well,” Cullen said. “And they’ve also got Zane Kirchner over there who I’m sure will be giving them a bit of inside information. Bernard is a very competent coach and has a lot of experience. He’ll change the way they play drastically so it’s going to be tough for us.

“We’re limited in what we can get in terms of footage. They’re very similar to what we would have seen with Grenoble with Bernard and the style of attacking play he likes to adopt. It’s going to be a different challenge to the Dragons team we’ve faced over the last number of years.

“It’s always a difficult challenge these early games as you’re not 100% sure what combinations teams have. They’re making plenty of changes there in what they’re doing and will be very well organised.”

In today’s other Pro14 action, Kieran Keane’s tenure in charge of Connacht gets underway with the visit of Glasgow [KO 7.35pm, TG4] to the Sportsground while Ospreys host Zebre at the Liberty Stadium.

The Southern Kings make their bow in the competition when they go head-to-head with defending champions Scarlets [KO 5.30pm, Sky Sports].

Dragons:

15. Zane Kirchner
14. Ashton Hewitt
13. Tyler Morgan
12. Jack Dixon
11. Hallam Amos
10. Gavin Henson
9. Charlie Davies

1. Brok Harris
2. Elliot Dee
3. Leon Brown
4. Matthew Screech
5. Cory Hill (captain)
6. James Thomas
7. James Benjamin
8. Harri Keddie

Replacements

16. Rhys Buckley
17. Luke Garrett
18. Lloyd Fairbrother
19. Rynard Landman
20. Max Williams
21. Tavis Knoyle
22. Angus O’Brien
23. Jared Rosser.

Leinster:

15. Rob Kearney
14. Adam Byrne
13. Rory O’Loughlin
12. Isa Nacewa (Captain)
11. Jordan Larmour
10. Ross Byrne
9. Jamison Gibson-Park

1. Cian Healy
2. Seán Cronin
3. Michael Bent
4. Devin Toner
5. Scott Fardy
6. Dan Leavy
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Max Deegan

Replacements:

16. James Tracy
17. Ed Byrne
18. Andrew Porter
19. James Ryan
20. Jack Conan
21. Nick McCarthy
22. Cathal Marsh
23. Barry Daly.

Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU).

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