Are we witnessing a changing of the guard in Ireland’s last line of defence?
The number 15 jersey has long been Rob Kearney’s but his misfortune to miss two of the four World Cup pool games with injury niggles could prove costly given the performances at full-back of Jordan Larmour.
When Kearney picked up a calf injury in the first week of training in Japan and Larmour was thrown in at full-back for the Pool A opener against Scotland, the 22-year-old exceeded expectations as he controlled the backfield and dominated the air in the steady rain in Yokohama.
Two appearances off the bench followed against Japan and Russia as Kearney picked up the gauntlet at full-back, scoring his second and third tries in successive Tests having gone three seasons without an international five-pointer.
Yet a tight groin stopped the hot streak and in Kearney’s absence, Larmour put in a man of the match display in the bonus-point win against Samoa to boost his chances of keeping his place for this Saturday’s quarter-final against New Zealand.
Larmour’s try-scoring performance against the Samoans was backed up by match-leading figures for 65 metres made, two clean breaks, and 12 defenders beaten as Ireland ran out 47-5 winners.
Joe Schmidt agreed Larmour was a live selection contender, and not just at 15, the head coach pointing out the wing/full-back finished at outside centre against Japan and inside centre against Samoa.
“I think Jordan keeps putting his hand up and that’s one thing we really like about him,” the head coach said. “He puts his hand up no matter where he ends up... I think his flexibility, his enthusiasm, he’s irrepressible.
I don’t know how many tackles he slipped tonight. He got the ball under real pressure a few times and also created opportunities from having the ball under pressure.
“When he got that ball with a little bit of time and space to move, I thought when he took the outside break and got the fend and then the timing and the accuracy of his inside offload to Johnny (Sexton) for (Ireland’s third) try was top-notch.
“He’s a youngster who we try to have involved; we’re just not sure where sometimes. Sometimes he is a little bit maverick and he wanders around because he’s not quite sure he’s playing at any one point but part of that is probably our fault because we keep swapping him around.
“But we swap him around because he’s so versatile and because his skill-set and his enthusiasm allow him to survive wherever we put him. I thought he was really good.”