IT’S REMARKABLE TO think this time last year, Jordan Larmour — the precociously gifted wunderkind who is set to make his full Test debut this weekend — was still a relative unknown playing for the Ireland U20s.
His meteoric rise from St Andrew’s College to this juncture has been remarkable and on Saturday the 20-year-old is in line to make his senior Ireland debut after being named on the bench for the Six Nations clash with Italy.
As recently as six months ago, Larmour had not played a senior game for Leinster and now — 14 assured, mature and eye-catching performances for the province later — here he is ready to be thrust into international rugby without any doubts over whether it is too early or not.
In leaving the fullback/winger out of his squad for last week’s win in Paris, Joe Schmidt strongly suggested he would be involved in round two with Larmour elevated to the matchday 23 for the visit of Conor O’Shea’s Azzurri.
“I expect Jordan to be provide what he has been providing in provincial matches,” Schmidt said when announcing his team selection, which includes four changes in personnel to his starting XV, with Jack McGrath, Devin Toner, Dan Leavy and Jack Conan all in.
“That electric acceleration, that change of direction, but also that assuredness under the high ball. We’d love to see all that and away from the ball, he has a super work-rate. We know that if we are coming under pressure, he will work really hard to relieve that pressure.”
Schmidt added that Larmour’s inclusion is based on current form, and that he’s more than ready to step up to Test level.
“There’s never a perfect situation [to include a debutant], but there are certainly better situations if he replaces Keith [Earls] or Jacob [Stockdale] on the edges, then having Rob [Kearney] at the back will be an asset.
“If he replaces Rob, then having Keith particularly with his experience on the edge, will be an asset as well. That’s part of what we do when we try to place a guy in, but you don’t place a player in and expect him to be looked after. He has an expectation himself of what he needs to do. Hopefully he will bring those exciting elements to the game.”
Larmour’s promotion to the bench in the number 23 jersey is part of Schmidt’s decision to rotate his squad after the physically demanding opening fixture at the Stade de France, with Andrew Porter, Quinn Roux and Kieran Marmion also among the replacements.
The former schoolboy hockey international will be hoping to get an opportunity to bring his flying form with Leinster onto the Six Nations stage, with the prospect of his devastating broken-play running being unleashed against a tiring Italian side an exciting one.
“He’s a phenomenal player,” Leavy says of his team-mate.
“We were doing a walk through the other day, and I don’t know if he was walking or sprinting but he hit the fastest walking line I’ve ever seen in my life and I’m expecting good things from him at the weekend.”
Larmour, a very level-headed individual, has taken it all in his stride.
“He’s settled in really well,” Leavy continues. “There are a lot of familiar faces around with the Leinster boys and a lot of young players around as well.
“He was well looked after and has integrated really well. He’s a great guy so everyone gets on with him well.”
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