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Dublin: 18 °C Tuesday 26 May, 2020

'He has no boundaries in the way he thinks': Nacewa excited to take on Europe with Larmour

The veteran Leinster skipper says team-mates feed off the 20-year-old’s positive approach.

GIVEN THE SIX-DAY turnaround, and the prospect of an almighty physical challenge in France to come, Leinster have approached the final rounds of the Champions Cup pool stages with a two-game selection process — but Leo Cullen is wary of the damage Glasgow can cause at the RDS.

Having conceded that he got some selection decisions wrong for the round four meeting with Exeter Chiefs before Christmas — a game Leinster won — Cullen has made a couple of bold calls for the visit of the Warriors, most notably fullback Jordan Larmour’s inclusion at the expense of Rob Kearney.

Leo Cullen Leo Cullen speaking during this afternoon's press conference at UCD. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

There is also a first European start for James Lowe on the wing, while Isa Nacewa returns from injury to captain the side in one of six changes from the one which demolished Ulster.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve one eye on Montpellier, but you’ve always got to have some sort of idea what’s coming up,” Cullen said at this afternoon’s pre-match press conference.

“We’ve picked a team that we think will go out and perform and hopefully get a result this weekend. We’ll make some assessments after the weekend unfolds and see what we do next week.”

The biggest decision was who to select at fullback. Ringrose’s injury meant Nacewa had to slot into midfield alongside Robbie Henshaw, leaving Kearney — he himself in a good run of form and fitness — and Larmour in direct competition for the number 15 jersey.

The demotion of an 81-cap international to the bench at the expense of a 20-year-old in his debut season at senior level is a significant call, particularly at this stage of the tournament, but Larmour’s form has been such that the case for his inclusion was just too compelling.

There’s also the feeling that Cullen, having taken lessons in regards to selection before Christmas, is saving the experience of Kearney for Montpellier next weekend, where Leinster will likely need a more experienced and defensively reliable presence in the back-field.

Yet the decision to retain Larmour is fully merited, not least because of his outstanding and electric display against Ulster last time out when he finished with a brace of tries, but could have easily left the RDS with four to his name.

“If he could score a try like he did at Thomond Park again early in the game that would be helpful,” Cullen jokes, “and similar to what he did against Ulster as well.”

Nacewa is also full of praise for the former St Andrew’s College man.

“He has no boundaries in the way he thinks, he just gets out there no matter what XV is in front of him and plays,” the captain said.

“That’s what’s exciting, you’ve seen his electric talent early in the year and you’ve seen that through the way he attacks; he’s really positive, he bounces around the place. You really feed off that.”

Isa Nacewa is congratulated by Jordan Larmour after scoring his sides fifth try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The calls for Larmour to be included in Joe Schmidt’s Six Nations squad will grow louder off the back of this team selection. Particularly if he can do what he’s been doing on the European stage.

“Jordan is very steady in his approach and he’s working away at a number of things,” Cullen continues. “He’s a young player coming into the team, of course he’s got things to get better at but he’s starting off in a pretty good place.

He’s been excellent. He comes in and is very competitive naturally and wants to get better. It’s a pleasure to coach those type of players.”

There is also a youthful look to Dave Rennie’s Glasgow XV for Sunday’s Pool 3 clash.

Already out of contention for qualification after four successive defeats, the Scottish side will travel to Dublin without many of their big names, including Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg, Callum Gibbins, Zander Fagerson and Tommy Seymour.

But Cullen isn’t underestimating the challenge which awaits his side, particularly after a similar Glasgow side defeated Leinster at Scotstoun during the November Test window.

“I think they’re a team with a lot of depth and they’re similar to ourselves in many ways as they’re used to losing a lot of players at certain stages in the year,” Cullen added.

“They’re a dangerous team, very well coached, very physical and very aggressive around the ruck. They play on the edge.

“We’ve prepared well this week and we need to make sure we’re in the right frame of mind as it’s going to be a huge challenge for us. It’s very dangerous to think too much about what players aren’t there.

“We discussed our game two years ago against Bath this week and when the teams were announced I remember hearing comments or reading comments about how I was disrespecting the competition for picking young players for their first starts in Europe.

“Some of those guys went on to do very well in that game so we need to understand they will have something to play for, and that makes them very, very dangerous.”

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