Isa Nacewa and Jordan Larmour: A winger with a glorious past, and a winger with a bright future

In the No 11 shirt, the present and the past. In the No 14 shirt, the present and the future.

Few positions have highlight how well Leinster have blended the old and the new as the wings will today.

Starting on one side is Isa Nacewa, the New Zealander. He is making his 183rd appearance for the province, since joining in 2008, and is looking to add to his 700 points.

His summer arrival, ten years ago, was instrumental in Michael Cheika’s assault on Europe, along with Rocky Elsom and CJ van der Linde.

Neither were close to the Kiwi when it came to longevity, with Elsom returning home after just the one season, while injury hampered the Springbok prop’s efforts in blue.

Nacewa retired in 2013, after helping himself to three Heineken Cups — and vowed that goodbye meant goodbye, even though he was just 31.

“I told you I wanted to retire here and I’m happy with what I’ve achieved here at Leinster, and that’s the main thing,” he said in May, 2013. 

“The environment is special and I want to come back here in 20 years’ time and watch games at the RDS and wear a Leinster jersey.”

Five years on, he’s wearing the Leinster jersey as a player again and looking forward to a second retirement. Leo Cullen convinced him to return to Dublin three years ago. To retire with a fourth European Cup would be quite the farewell.

While there’s 80 minutes left in Nacewa’s European career, the other wing is home to a player whose European career is barely beginning.

Jordan Larmour has made only 19 appearances for Leinster, and has 35 points to his name, a staggering contrast to Nacewa.

He’s made four starts in the Champions Cup this season, and with Fergus McFadden injured, the 20-year-old has been given the nod in the biggest game of the province’s season.

It’s a gamble of sorts, but the player doesn’t come into the game without the experience of high-pressure situations.

He started against Saracens in the quarter-final, but, before that, he made three appearances in the Six Nations — coming off the bench, at full back and centre, against Italy, Scotland, and England.

Starting on the wing today shows his versatility, as well as Cullen’s faith in his defensive abilities, but it’s the position some believe is his best.

“I reckon, if Jordan Larmour gets capped this Six Nations it’ll be on the wing,” Brian O’Driscoll said in January, while warning he needed to be treated carefully”.

“There is no need to be rash. He’s 20 and he’s played a handful of professional games. Time is his friend.”

Time is against Nacewa, one of the best-value overseas players in Irish rugby history, but Larmour has plenty of time to prove his class.

“The word is he’s going to be really, really special, because he gets it. Lots of these guys, lots of players come through, maybe not with that level of talent, but with huge ability, but you have to have the mental capacity, you have to have the willingness to learn and to work, the appetite for it. Apparently, he has it all,” O’Driscoll said.

Nacewa’s arrival helped Leinster to a new level in 2008.

Larmour can grab that baton and help keep them there.



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