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Larmour set for aerial test from Scotland in Ireland's World Cup opener

The 22-year-old starts at fullback in the absence of Rob Kearney.

ASKED ABOUT IRELAND’S new-look back three, Joe Schmidt underlines Andrew Conway’s “proven aerial ability,” notes that Jacob Stockdale is “a big man in the backfield” and highlights a moment of impressive fielding from Jordan Larmour.

Clearly, Schmidt has a sense that Scotland will look to test the new combination, with 22-year-old fullback Larmour looking sure to face some aerial challenges early on in Yokohama tomorrow.

“I still have the vision very clearly in my mind of Jordan Larmour beating Israel Folau to a ball in the third Test in Sydney on our Australian tour last year,” says Schmidt. 

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The Wallabies are trailing Ireland 17-16 with five minutes of that decisive third encounter remaining and set up to give Folau a chance one-on-one with Larmour, who has come on for Rob Kearney at fullback.

Kurtley Beale hoists a garryowen over Larmour but he rises and unfussily deals with the challenge. It may seem like a basic skill but it’s a big moment in terms of the psychological boost it gives Larmour’s team-mates. 

“That’s nice to hear,” says Larmour when informed of Schmidt’s praise. “It’s something that we’ve been working on as a back three unit all pre-season, trying to get better aerial skills.

“We spend a lot of time on it in training, after training, so it’s something we pride ourselves on, being good in the air.”

Of course, one could point to Ireland’s win over Argentina last November – when Larmour failed to deal with hanging Pumas kicks on three occasions – to suggest a potential weakness in this area of his game.

But the Leinster man is not lacking in confidence about his aerial ability, or any part of his game. Larmour’s self-belief and steely mentality are among the reasons Schmidt rates him. 

The fullback feels ready for what the Scots will bring.

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“We’ve come up with a good game plan, we think that anything they throw at us, we can solve as a team together and problem-solve together,” says Larmour.

jordan-larmour 22-year-old Larmour will be at 15 for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“So just in the backfield, with Bomber [Conway] and Jacob [Stockdale] there as well, we’ll be chatting to each other all day and I’m sure they have a kicking game coming, so we all have to be ready for that.

“Any time the ball goes up you normally have two people going up into the contest so firstly, it’s about getting into the contest and then secondly, it’s about trying to get the ball back. We know it’s going to be coming and we have to be ready for it.”

If Scotland kick to Larmour without accuracy and a pressurising kick chase, they will be punished. The Ireland fullback’s counter-attacking skills are a real strength, with his footwork and acceleration meaning he is very capable of exploiting opportunities.

He is solid in the tackle too and, in truth, has the tools to make a success of this opportunity in the injury-enforced absence of Kearney. 

It will be intriguing to see exactly how Ireland set up in the backfield against the Scots tomorrow and it would be no surprise to see them defend with a 13+2 system, whereby a second player is permanently positioned deep along with Larmour, the other 13 staying in the frontline defence.

Whatever about the details, the young Dublin man is simply excited about the chance to start in what will be his first World Cup game.

“My family are chuffed for me, as you’d expect,” says Larmour. “I remember watching World Cups growing up with thm, and I’m sure they’re very happy for me and will be looking forward to watching it this weekend.

“You don’t want to burn yourself out [building up to the game]. The nerves start building, the pressure starts building, the excitement starts building, so it’s just about trying to keep our minds focused on the job and keep taking every moment as it comes.”

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