Less than a month to go until Andy Farrell selects his first Ireland team and the list of known unknowns when it comes to selection is a lengthy one after the trauma of Japan.
Who will assume the armband from Rory Best and who will replace the Ulsterman at hooker?
Will Devin Toner plug straight back in after his World Cup disappointment?
Has Conor Murray enough credit in the bank to keep John Cooney at bay?
What does Farrell see as his best midfield combination?
Will we see new blood injected into the back row now that guys like Caelan Doris are pulling up tress?
What does he do at out-half given the lack of form and/or fitness that has bedevilled most of the country’s No.10s?
Is Keith Earls at risk on the wing? Has Andrew Porter a shot at edging Tadhg Furlong for one of the bigger games?
Decisions, decisions but not quite everywhere.
All signs are that Jordan Larmour will be the first-choice full-back when Scotland come to Dublin in February. The Leinster flyer wore the 15 shirt against the same opposition in Yokohama, of course, and then played second fiddle to Rob Kearney from there on in. That won’t happen again.
The last time Kearney edged Larmour for that jersey was in November when Leinster won in France against this weekend’s opponents, Lyon.
Larmour has started the other three European ties with the veteran limited to 20 minutes in total in December’s back-to-back games against Northampton Saints and omitted from Farrell’s pre-Christmas ‘stocktake’ in Abbotstown.
This is one baton that has already been passed on.
Larmour is not yet the finished article. He is honest enough to say that among the areas he is working most on right now are those considered to be the nuts and bolts for any full-back: backfield cover, getting to a ball before it bounces, defensive reads, high balls and handling. The anecdotal evidence of late is that this work is paying off.
He looks more comfortable in the position after impressing at the World Cup. He also seems a natural fit there if the suggestions are true and Farrell encourages a more creative and expansive side to an attritional approach that produced so much reward for so long under Joe Schmidt.
“The more game time you get in a certain position, you will feel more comfortable,” said Larmour. “Still, I can play on the wing. I can go enter the centre if I have to. So its just important I don’t take away from that, just keep learning and in those positions. In training sometimes I find myself on the wing. On the weekend (against Connacht), I was in the front line for five or ten minutes so it happens in games and you’ve got to be ready for it. But, yeah, the more time you spend in a position, the more comfortable you feel.”
What’s clear is that Larmour will bring a different energy to the full-back shirt than Kearney who, it must be said, showed up well in Japan. His speed and movement offer a much greater threat with ball in hand than the Louth veteran and it is surely something that Farrell and his new attack coach Mike Catt will look to utilise. Larmour picked up a chilled out vibe off Catt during that Ireland get-together prior to Christmas.
The former Italy and England assistant coach has already introduced some new ideas that have caused the players to think differently.
One of the criticisms of Ireland’s attack last year was the focus on Jonathan Sexton as the sole fulcrum and the lack of a second playmaker.
Here again Larmour could prove to be the right man in the right place at the right time. He has already spoken to Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster about stepping more into the line and directing traffic.
“When I came back (from the World Cup) I sat down with him and I said I want to step up and more of a ballplayer as well so I’m working on that. I’ve done it a few times this season, stepping up.
“It’s important. Being a 15, you’ve got to be able to play a two-sided attack so when you’re getting back up off the ground you’re scanning, seeing if you can go back down the short side or work out the open side. So I’ve been working on that so far this season as well.”
His time is now.