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'He goes out and expresses himself' - Plenty of praise as Larmour continues to flourish at 15

The versatile full-back’s form will please Andy Farrell ahead of his first Six Nations as Ireland head coach.

Jordan Larmour delivered a man of the match performance against Northampton.
Jordan Larmour delivered a man of the match performance against Northampton.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THE TEMPTATION IS to imagine just how good Jordan Larmour could yet become.

There was plenty of chatter about Larmour’s impressive statistics as the crowd piled out of the Aviva Stadium following Leinster’s superb 50-21 thrashing of Northampton Saints on Saturday. 

Ten runs. 124 meters. Eleven defenders beaten. Three clean breaks. 

Yet the most important number beside Larmour’s name is his age.

At 22, Larmour is still only finding his feet at this level, and he is yet to reach the 20-game mark in Europe. It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that Larmour is growing into a big game player. 

His four appearances for Leinster this season have all come in the Heineken Champions Cup, with Larmour starting three games at full-back and one on the wing (Lyon). While his best position still tends to divide opinion, he is clearly thriving at full-back.

From further back the field, Larmour is able to collect the ball and run at defences from deep, rather than taking the ball in tight spaces on the wing. His two stand-out moments on Saturday: the swerving burst that saw him dart up the middle of the pitch, and the jinking run where he side-stepped an almost comical number of Northampton defenders, would simply not have happened if he was playing on the wing. 

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen obviously sees the benefit of deploying Larmour from deep, taking the bold decision to name Rob Kearney on the bench for the second week running. A brave call, but one that is paying off.

“I think we know he has that ability to step, but it is probably more the aerial piece [of his performance] that is the more pleasing bit,” said Cullen.

caelan-doris-celebrates-scoring-a-try-with-ciaran-frawley-jordan-larmour-and-bryan-byrne Caelan Doris celebrates his try with Jordan Larmour. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“A couple of high balls early in the game and he was able to deal with them. You’ve got to be able to able to deal with those nuts and bolts. So yeah, another positive day. For Jordan it was nice, conditions were great out there, a good surface and all those things and Jordan looks dangerous in that environment.”

Cullen knows that opting for Larmour ahead of Kearney will only serve to spark debate, bearing in mind that Kearney has played four times as many games (80) in Europe as Larmour (19).

While Larmour can’t offer Kearney’s experience, there is no hiding from the fact he is the form 15 in the county now, and Andy Farrell, watching on from the stands on Saturday, will spend a fair chunk of his Christmas mulling over the idea of favouring youth ahead of experience.

“Jordan is doing his thing, you know, I don’t think he gets too bogged down by anything,” Cullen continued.

“He goes out and expresses himself and again that competition is good, I think it is healthy competition. It is a positive step.”

Larmour’s team-mates are also benefitting from seeing the young flyer in the No 15 shirt. James Lowe, who scored the fifth of Leinster’s seven tries on Saturday, linked up well with Larmour throughout the game. 

“He got himself into good positions and was able to put me down the sideline a couple of times and he went on a rampage or two as well so no, we’re very happy with our performance,” Lowe admitted.

james-lowe Lowe linked up well with Larmour throughout Leinster's win against the Saints. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“He’s very, very young as well, I forget that. Yeah, more time in the saddle has been awesome for him and that 15 spot, he has almost locked it up so far, so here’s hoping he stays injury free and kicks on to next year.

“He likes to run and I like to run, like attracts like there… he doesn’t know what I’m gonna do and I don’t know what he’s gonna do, so maybe when we figure out what we are going to do, it will come off. So he’s an awesome player with a huge future.”

He’s not the only one. While he may not deliver as many moments of individual magic, Caelan Doris was once again outstanding in the Leinster backrow. Only Larmour and Lowe covered more ground with ball in hand than the 21-year-old, who also nailed 16 tackles, second only to James Ryan and Josh van der Flier (both 18).

Injuries elsewhere initially fast-tracked him into the Leinster first team, but he is doing a fine job of making the position his own. Whispers of an Ireland call-up are becoming increasingly loud with each passing week.

“There is an awful lots of bits, little bits, nuts and bolts of forward play. He is still progressing all the time,” Cullen said.

“He is still young. But he brings a good physical edge to his game. There is lots of bits that he can develop. Physically trying to get [to] the [required] level.

“Caelan is making progress, you know, Max [Deegan] and him have had a really good rivalry, the two of them pushing, and with Rhys [Ruddock] coming back in, the sevens have been good, Josh [van der Flier] and Will [Connors], have been really, really good, Josh Murphy has played well at six. So guys will get a bit of window now, we’ll chop and change the group over the next few weeks. 

“Guys will get a chance, but competition has been a good thing for everybody. It’s spurring everybody on. Lads know that they need to play well, or otherwise somebody else will come in.

“It’s just taking the steps as well, not relying on a young player to play every week. That’s probably the biggest thing. A little bit of exposure, try to pull them back, and off they go again, rather than playing guys into the ground. So yeah, it’s been a good few weeks for Caelan, I thought he was very good at Glasgow away and the two Northampton games, so it’s been a positive three weeks for him.”

Cullen has his fair share of injury concerns as Leinster prepare to attack the business end of the season, but for now, his young deputies are doing a fine job of steering the ship.

Leinster may not have been thinking about a changing of the guard, but it’s happening right before their eyes.

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