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'If teams kick there, I'm confident enough to go up and get it'

Jordan Larmour is working hard every day to continue his development at club and international level.

NOTHING SEEMS TO faze Jordan Larmour, not least a couple of questions about his ability in the air. The real test, he knows, is when 15 is on his back, in the heated environment of a Test match or big European game. 

Even then, he just goes with the flow. Pitched in at the last minute to make his first Six Nations start against France earlier this month, the 21-year-old simply rubbed his hands together when others were sweating nervously. Undaunted and undeterred. 

Jordan Larmour Larmour pictured in UCD this week. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Larmour’s performance against Les Bleus was by no means perfect, but his display in the backfield and contributions with ball in hand spoke volumes of his own self-belief and confidence, and, significantly, his ability to back it all up. 

There were learnings to take from that afternoon at the Aviva Stadium, notably when he got caught out under a cross-field kick by Damien Penaud, but there was far more good than bad and making those mistakes in a high-pressure setting is all part of his development. 

“The more you play, the more experience, the more confidence you get,” Larmour says.

“Rob [Kearney] pulled out late and I got the late call in. You prepare during the week for situations like that, so you try to make it as seamless as possible. Once you’re in there, it’s about taking your opportunity. Playing well, putting your hand up every week. That’s how you become a starting player. That’s all I keep trying to do.

All I can really control is how I’m playing, how I’m training. Keep trying to grow my rugby knowledge, keep growing as a player and trying to get better. Every day in training, you do your extras. You just keep working on your skillset and keep trying to grow. I’d like to think I’ve grown as a player [since last season] and I’ve become better.

Last season was, of course, a memorable one for the Leinster wunderkind, as a breakthrough year was garnished with moments of individual majesty. Ulster, Munster, Scarlets. And he finished it amongst rugby royalty in Monaco. 

After a year of unprecedented success, 2018/19 has been a bit more of a reality check for the Leinster back. Not that his own level of performance has dipped, or it’s a case of second season syndrome, but losing has been a relatively new experience for Larmour as a professional.

That said, with appearances off the bench against England, Scotland and Wales in addition to his 80 minutes against France in Dublin, Larmour firmly cemented his place in Joe Schmidt’s plans moving towards the World Cup, clearly growing into his role in the green jersey.

There was also a first Six Nations try in the closing stages of the Cardiff horror show, another small marker for Larmour even if the circumstances of the score meant it was barely recognised at the time, bringing his international tally to four.

“Yeah, it’s a bit different from last year,” he agrees. “I still think it was a great experience, the Six Nations, you always want to be involved in the national team and the Ireland set-up.

“It was disappointing how it finished. Obviously, we would have liked to win the Six Nations but I still think we can take a huge amount of learnings from it and I can just kick on and keep growing as a player.”

Jordan Larmour scores a late try The 21-year-old scored his first Six Nations try against Wales. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The key to that, Larmour acknowledges, is getting minutes under his belt, both for Leinster and Ireland. Seven of his 11 starts for the province this term have been at fullback, including the home and away European pool games against Toulouse. 

Larmous’s devastating ability in possession is well known, and certainly his broken-field running makes him a dangerous weapon in the backfield, but much of his day-to-day work revolves around the other responsibilities demanded of a 15.

Communication, positional play and high-ball skills are all essential tools required for any fullback and while Kearney brings an assured presence in the position whether it be in blue or green, Larmour is evolving and progressing with every game. 

“You’re always going to make mistakes in games, I suppose you look at them and see where you could have done better,” the former St Andrew’s College man continues.

“Next time if you’re in that situation, you do it better, you don’t make the same mistake twice. There’s a lot of things you can learn from the experience and in the matches, it’s just trying not to make the same mistake twice.

“I think a lot of lads would always look at the bad things and not really look at the good things. I think you’ve got to be harsh on yourself if you want to keep growing as a player, you can’t really let the mistakes just go away and say ‘oh, it will be grand, I’ll do better next time’, you have to really look at them and see where you can go from there.”

Not bothered by what others say or think, Larmour’s head is firmly down as he looks to make everyday improvements. 

“Definitely. I try to work on it every day and try to get better at it. Especially, at international level, teams are kicking a lot more. There’s a lot more contest happening. You’ve got to have a good high ball skillset if you want to compete at the top level.”

Is he wary of teams targetting him more in the air now, though?

“Not really to be honest. I work on it every day. I back myself up there. If teams kick there, I’m confident enough to go up and get it. Same with if we’re kicking the ball, I’m confident I can chase after it and get up at it. It’s just a skill that I keep growing.”

It may well be a skill that his placed under scrutiny by Ulster this weekend, as the two provinces go head-to-head in their Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final at the Aviva Stadium.

Larmour has played every minute of Leinster’s European campaign so far — starting twice on the wing and the other three outings at fullback — and is set to play another big role on Saturday, regardless of what number is on his back.

Jordan Larmour Back in blue: Larmour is set to start against Ulster this weekend. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“At the moment, I’m kind of mixing between fullback and wing,” he says, when asked where he’d prefer to play. “That’s where I see myself. I don’t really have a favourite position yet.  

“I do like fullback. It suits me there. But you know, it’s just about getting the chance to play anywhere really and just put your hand up and keep getting selected.”

The added space and time in the backfield appeals to Larmour.

“Yeah, I suppose you have a bit more freedom there. On the wing, you can come off your wing but sometimes you’re standing out there waiting for a cross-field kick. At fullback, you have a bit more freedom to roam around and come into the line whenever.”

Either way, he’ll just go with the flow, continuing to play it how he sees it. 

“Exactly.” 

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Ryan Bailey

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