Dynamic Larmour ready for the big time, says Schmidt

Joe Schmidt declared rookie Leinster star Jordan Larmour ready for Test rugby as he backed the 20-year-old to thrive off the bench in Ireland’s push for tries in Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Italy.

Dynamic Larmour ready for the big time, says Schmidt

Larmour, still an academy player with his province, has already laid down a marker with standout performances in his debut season in the Guinness PRO14 and Champions Cup, most notably a stunning individual try in broken play against Munster on St Stephen’s Day in Limerick.

Having been called into the Ireland squad, head coach Schmidt yesterday named him as the outside backs replacement for tomorrow’s round-two championship home game against the Conor O’Shea-coached Italians.

Ireland have scored nine tries in each of their past two meetings with Italy, a 58-15 home thrashing in 2016 and a record 63-10 victory in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico 12 months ago that is this nation’s biggest championship win.

Ten of those 18 tries came in the second half of those fixtures after Ireland had broken stubborn resistance from the Azzurri.

Larmour’s introduction for a Test debut from the bench to the back three could bring some of the required creativity and pace to proceedings as tomorrow’s game opens up for the Irish at Aviva Stadium.

“I just like the way when I first saw him playing probably three years ago, he was playing in the midfield that day and how dynamic he was, how he sensed really good timing, whether to make the pass or whether to carry the ball or whether to step back inside or take the outside break,” Schmidt said yesterday.

“The great thing with Jordan is he has actually got the talent to do whatever of those that are required. He is not a huge young man by any means but he has got so many other aspects to his game, that he more than makes up for the size and maturity.”

Ireland have made four changes, all in the forward pack, to the team which started the opening game of their NatWest 6 Nations campaign in Paris last Saturday, a game snatched from the jaws of defeat by Johnny Sexton’s dramatic last-gasp drop goal at the end of a 41-phase drive to defeat France 15-13.

Dan Leavy comes in for the injured Josh van der Flier at openside flanker, having impressed off the bench after replacing his Leinster team-mate in the 36th minute at Stade de France.

There is another change to the back row with CJ Stander dropping to the bench, handing the No8 jersey to Jack Conan.

Leinster’s Dan Leavy and Jack Conan
Leinster’s Dan Leavy and Jack Conan

At loosehead prop, Jack McGrath rotates with Cian Healy, who started against France, while Devin Toner returns to the second row as James Ryan is given the weekend off following the 21-year-old’s star turn on his Six Nations debut in Paris.

Explaining the changes, Schmidt said: “Some of it is mileage; CJ Stander had 42 cleanouts and 23 carries in the game in Paris, which, while not attritional for CJ, he’s in great shape, it’s really rewarding some performances by Jack Conan as well.

“But it’s an opportunity to try to keep a freshness in these games, they do become mentally challenging.”

There are further changes on the bench with Andrew Porter replacing John Ryan as cover at tighthead for Tadhg Furlong, while Quinn Roux comes in as the second-row replacement following the withdrawal of his Connacht team-mate Ultan Dillane due to a family bereavement.

There is a change in the scrum-half replacement with Kieran Marmion replacing Luke McGrath, an unused substitute last week, as was covering fly-half Joey Carbery, who retains his place to give Ireland further attacking flair off the bench.

It is also an unchanged backline as Schmidt backs his starters behind the scrum despite a tryless showing on Saturday.

He is mindful of the part points differentials may play in the final shake-up on the championship table as well as the flying bonus-point starts made last weekend by Wales against Scotland and England in Italy.

Yet he cautioned Irish supporters against expecting too much of a try-fest, at least early in the game.

“I guess we never go in with that expectation,” said Schmidt. “We would love that to be the reality and it was the same last year and the year before. We want to get out there and score tries and last year the number of tries was fantastic.

“We knew we needed to score lots of points and I don’t think that necessarily changes. You have got to keep scoring, keep driving yourself forward, because this competition, maybe not in the last two years but the two years previous to that, came down to very fine margins.

“So our intention is to keep scoring points. I think we have added some guys who can potentially help us do that and you know we at the same time try to have a focus on doing some things really well that will inevitably lead to opportunities where we can score points.”

Schmidt added: “We would love to be able to attack from wherever the opportunity lends itself and at the same time play fairly smart against a team that you know but for a slight forward pass would have been 20-17 points down against England with 25 minutes to go last weekend.

"So you just can’t be off the mark very far at all, otherwise you will put yourself straight under pressure.”

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