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'He's only been here a few weeks but already made a positive impact'

Leinster coach Leo Cullen gives his thoughts on new arrival Scott Fardy, the province’s young guns and the season ahead.

Fardy made his debut in last week's friendly win over Gloucester.
Fardy made his debut in last week's friendly win over Gloucester.

BY THE TIME Leinster run out to open their season at Rodney Parade next Saturday afternoon, Scott Fardy will have played just 62 minutes in blue but already we’ve seen what he’ll bring to the province over the next two years.

The 39-time capped Australia second-row needs no introduction having featured in Super Rugby for the Western Force and Brumbies and he showed exactly why there is so much excitement surrounding his arrival during last week’s win over Gloucester.

Signed on a two-year contract to operate primarily as a lock, Fardy made an instant impact on his Leinster debut, making the initial break for the first of seven tries and then proving all his worth at the breakdown in the following phase of play.

Already, Fardy’s signing, as well as the addition of Kiwi James Lowe, look to be real coups for Leinster and speaking at the launch of the Guinness Pro14 this week, Leo Cullen said bringing in that calibre of player with such experience is invaluable for his team.

“I had some good conversations with Scott on the phone about where he saw his career going,” the head coach said.

“He’s coming to that point where he’s looking overseas and potentially making a move. I’ve always been a big admirer of his. He was playing lock in the early part of his career then moved to six, I’ve just always admired him as a competitor.

“We’ve got so many young guys you need to get the experience from somewhere. It’s hard to go out and manufacture that so for us to go out and be able to bring that in. He’s been really good and I was really impressed with his attitude and desire to come play and be successful. He’s only here a few weeks but has made a positive impact so far.”

On the capture of Maori All Black Lowe, who won’t be available to Leinster until October, Cullen added: “It’s a bit more complicated with James, we knew that. He’s coming on a longer term deal as well so he’s got to finish up with his Mitre 10 commitments but I was just chatting to Dave Rennie [Glasgow head coach] and he was telling me he was trying to get him to sign for Glasgow so it’s positive he chose Leinster.”

Scott Fardy Arrives at Leinster Rugby Scott Fardy. Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

Neither of Leinster’s two summer signings will be involved when the province round off their pre-season preparations against Bath tonight at Donnybrook [KO 7.35pm] while the players involved in the Lions and Ireland tours in June also remain unavailable.

It all means Cullen has been working with reduced numbers over the last few weeks but that opens doors for some of the province’s younger players, with the likes of Max Deegan and Jordan Larmour standing out in pre-season so far.

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.

“It’s huge. It’s massive actually what we’re trying to do,” Cullen said of the opportunity these guys have.

“It’s a huge period for those guys, that’s their window to shine. Some guys did really well last year and went through to get capped. It was a good season for those guys and hopefully they’ll be a little bit better and we’ll have a few more guys coming through.”

After coming off the bench to score two second-half tries at Templeville Road last week, Ireland U20 international Larmour starts at fullback for the visit of Premiership outfit Bath tonight, who have Lion Taulupe Faletau back in the mix.

Larmour was unfortunate to miss the Junior World Championship in June through injury but the disappointment of that setback has been offset by the chance to take a full part in Leinster’s pre-season.

“He definitely has something a bit special,” Cullen said of the former St Andrew’s College student.

“He was unlikely he missed out on the U20 World Cup through injury but it probably gave him a chance to be with us for the majority of pre-season. Played last two weeks and will be involved again tonight. It’s invaluable to get those games under his belt and that’s a real positive. The disappointment of missing out on a World Cup has given him a window to showcase his talent.

Jordan Larmour scores a try Academy winger/fullback Larmour has impressed in pre-season. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“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.”

Cullen has named a matchday squad of 31 for tonight’s outing ahead of the Pro14 season opener against Dragons in seven days, and the head coach admits he’s a bit ‘on guard’ when looking ahead to the season.

“I’m on guard at the moment because I just think there’s a lot of potential banana skins particularly over the first six weeks of the Pro14,” he explained.

“We’ve the challenge of players coming back at different stages and we’ve the challenge of a trip to South Africa, which is new. Such an uncertainty around the two teams we’re playing, the environments we’ll play in and the amount of players we can bring.

“And then when we come back we’ll have more players [Lions] to integrate back in. I think there was a lot of experience picked up last year for a number of the younger guys and they should be better, we certainly hope they’ll be better, with that experience and how they respond in different scenarios.

“There were different scenarios last year when we didn’t have the response we should have so I’m sort of on guard. That’s probably the way I’m feeling.”

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