'He's got amazing work-rate' - Leinster's Hugo Keenan continues to impress

Leinster’s back three depth will be tested by international call-ups and injuries in the coming months.

HUGO KEENAN AND Jordan Larmour swapping jersey numbers 14 and 15 was perhaps the most interesting point about Leinster’s team selection for Friday night’s clash with the Dragons at the RDS, with the move very much working out.

Keenan has played the vast majority of his senior rugby for Leinster at fullback but had been picked on the right wing for the final games of the 2019/20 season after stepping into the team to replace the injured Dave Kearney.

Larmour, meanwhile, had continued as the first-choice fullback, despite the temptation for Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster to slot Keenan into that position, or perhaps bring back Rob Kearney, and move Larmour to the wing – where he has played plenty of his rugby.

leinsters-hugo-keenan Hugo Keenan has impressed in recent weeks. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Instead, the Leinster bosses waited until the first fixture of the 2020/21 season to make the switch, perhaps getting Keenan back into his strongest position given that Larmour is likely to be away with Ireland for the coming months.

However, Keenan’s form in recent weeks suggests that he could potentially be involved with Ireland this autumn, with the 24-year-old stepping up to the plate in impressive fashion for Leinster’s 2019/20 play-off games.

The Ireland 7s international’s strong form continued on Friday night as he delivered another demonstration of his work-rate, pace, and solid decision-making as he ran for 78 metres on 13 carries and beat a couple of defenders along the way.

Of course, Keenan is coming from some way back in the race for back three spots with Ireland but if current form carries real weight, he will at least be in consideration for a place in the squad Andy Farrell is due to name this week.

Even if he misses out this time around, Keenan’s career is certainly on an upward trajectory and the Ireland coaches will still be watching closely.

“Hugo has been excellent,” said Leinster boss Leo Cullen on Friday night. “He’s got amazing work-rate.

“I thought Jordan looked lively on the wing as well, so we’re lucky to have those guys playing 14 and 15.

“It’s interchangeable at times during the game and they’ve struck up a good relationship.”

james-lowe James Lowe scored two tries against the Dragons. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Meanwhile, James Lowe scored two tries from the left wing against the Dragons – making it 32 tries in 48 Leinster games so far – ahead of his qualification to play for Ireland in early November.

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It will be interesting to see if Farrell brings Lowe into his Ireland squad from the start of the autumn games – he won’t be eligible for the two rescheduled Six Nations games this month – or waits until the start of the Autumn Nations Cup in November.

With Lowe likely to be joining Larmour, Leinster will have some interesting back three decisions to make in the coming months.

Rob Kearney and Fergus McFadden have finished up with the province, while Adam Byrne still has months of rehab left after hamstring surgery and Dave Kearney remains on the comeback trail after his own hamstring injury.

Keenan and Cian Kelleher are the other senior squad back three players, but outside centre Jimmy O’Brien is adept at fullback and fellow midfielder Rory O’Loughlin can also play on the wing.

Year 3 academy men Aaron O’Sullivan and Michael Silvester are uncapped at senior level, while the latest intake in Year 1 includes the highly-rated Andrew Smith, Niall Comerford, and Max O’Reilly, all of whom were part of the Ireland U20s squad earlier his year.

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Murray Kinsella

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