Six Nations: Jordan Larmour is Ireland’s star in the making

Jordan Larmour made an impression in the Under-20 Six Nations last season. Now he is poised to make his full international debut. Picture: Shutterstock
Jordan Larmour made an impression in the Under-20 Six Nations last season. Now he is poised to make his full international debut. Picture: Shutterstock
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Brian O’Driscoll announced himself to the rugby world with a hat-trick of tries at Stade de France way back in 2000. Jordan Larmour chose the cosier surroundings of Munster’s Thomond Park to announce his arrival on the big stage one day after Christmas of last year in the red hot inter-provincial match.

The Leinster full-back fielded a long kick just five yards or so from his own 22. He starts off heading left towards the touchline but he doesn’t like the odds and quickly steps off his left foot, once, twice, beating two men as he does so with shades of Phil Bennett. With the field opening up Larmour takes off like a scalded cat but Ian Keatley is covering so he steps thestand-off, this time off his right foot, and then holds off Simon Zebo to score a 75-metre try that puts his name on the map and earns his place in this Ireland squad.

The funny thing is that the hottest talent in Irish rugby only got a full professional contract last week, just in case any French clubs started sniffing around. When he scored that wonder try at Thomond Park Larmour was drawing an apprentice salary.

Anyone who follows Glasgow closely will already have had a sneak preview of the 20-year-old’s abilities because when the Warriors hosted Leinster in the Pro14 on 3 November the full-back sliced them wide open with some fancy footwork to create the opening try of the match for Kiwi scrum-half Jamieson Gibson-Park after exactly four minutes.

Larmour is the only uncapped player in Joe Schmidt’s squad and he is widely expected to make his Test debut at some point in the championship, but part of the problem the coach has is knowing where to play him. 
He spent much of his youth rugby at 13. Schmidt actually witnessed him as a schoolboy, confiding in his St Andrews school coach after one game: “That’s a very tasty No.13!”

The Irish coach added at the tournament launch last week: “He has incredible acceleration and ability to change direction as we know, but he’s also really skilful, good in the air and he’s a really good kid. That always plays a part. Jordan was playing at a level that made it appropriate to select him.”

O’Driscoll knows a bit about centre play but the legend wants to see Larmour on the wing, where he faced Montpellier’s Nemani Nadolo last weekend in the Champions Cup and emerged with his reputation enhanced. Meanwhile, Girvan Demsey would like to see Larmour at full-back, where he has played most of his rugby for Leinster this season, and the former Irish full-back may be right.

Just as Stuart Hogg’s attacking instincts are given free rein from the No.15 shirt, so too Larmour is probably at his most dangerous countering in broken field. But rather than the Scot, Ireland’s new star is being likened to another full-back from an earlier era – All Black Christian Cullen.

Not only can the Irishman step off both feet, just like the man dubbed “the Paekakariki Express”, but he can manage the feat without any apparent loss of pace. Don’t take my word for it, here is team-mate Isa Nacewa talking about Larmour in the Irish Independent.

“He has got a really canny ability to keep his high speed when he’s stepping, sidestepping off either foot. You don’t see that in every player so when he can do that, similar to the try scored in Munster, that’s a pretty special talent to have.”

That speed is all the more surprising after one injury back in 2015 that could have ended it all. He tore his ACL in one knee, required reconstructive surgery on the joint and missed an entire season of rugby.

It didn’t seem to derail his speed or dampen his enthusiasm for sport. Larmour is multi-talented. Coming from a hockey playing school, he represented Ireland with a stick and was labelled “the most exciting forward talent to pop up in Irish hockey for 20 years”.

He also swings a golf club to good effect, but there was little doubt that rugby was always his main focus in life and he appears to be admirably balanced. His school coach dubbed Larmour “a very good learner, level-headed and modest”.

And to prove it the Leinster man returns to his old school, St Andrews, to help coach the first XV two evenings per week.

Meanwhile, Irish fans and the wider rugby public are rubbing their hands in expectation of welcoming one of the brightest talents in Europe on to the biggest annual stage of them all. The only possible exception may be Rob Kearney, pictured, his rival for that Irish No.15 shirt.