The rise and rise of Jordan Larmour could go to another level today with Robbie Henshaw and Girvan Dempsey backing the young back-three star to be included in Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad for the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations.
Head coach Schmidt will today name his squad for the first two rounds of next month’s championship, with Ireland travelling to Paris to play France on Saturday, February 3 and then welcoming Italy to Dublin’s Aviva Stadium seven days later.
Larmour, 20, made his Champions Cup debut for Leinster last Sunday in the 55-19 thrashing of Glasgow Warriors that secured a home quarter-final for Leo Cullen’s side, the academy back’s 13th cap and eighth start for the province since a senior debut against the Dragons on the first day of the season.
His counter-attacking try from full-back against Munster on St Stephen’s Day really launched the clamour for Larmour’s inclusion, backed up two more and a man-of-the-match award on January 6 against Ulster, and both team-mate Henshaw and backs coach Dempsey gave the youngster their backing for inclusion in today’s Six Nations squad.
“I think he’s not far off. I think his performances have been incredible, so yeah, I’ll be looking for his name,” Henshaw said, while former Ireland full-back Dempsey suggested Larmour was more than ready for Test rugby.
“If he continues to improve the way he’s improving, yeah,” the Leinster assistant coach said. “It’s ultimately up to the national coaches, the make-up of their squad. He’s certainly putting his hand up for selection, which is all you can ask.
“He is a really exciting player to have in the squad at the moment. He brings such energy. He is the last one to leave the field and he bounds out onto the field. He works so hard on the game, does a huge amount of work on his ball skills.
“He goes through video work with us on his positional play. His ball-in-hand skills are excellent. The speed and accuracy of his passing is excellent. He is constantly learning. He has shown that he’s not phased by big occasions, which has been a real asset.
“Sometimes you get a young player who is on the scene and he’s got that exuberance and he’s daunted by the occasion. But, Jordan hasn’t been phased and he’s got a really good grounding.
“Whether he is selected for higher honours, it is ultimately up to the other coaches to decide that. We’re just pleased with how much he’s progressing and how much he’s learned over the last while and how eager he is to improve even more.”
With a date in the Stade de France first up on Ireland’s schedule, Larmour would be an outside bet for a Test debut in game one, with Schmidt repeatedly saying a Six Nations is not the place for experimentation, although such is Larmour’s talent that he seems likely to invite him back into camp, perhaps with the home game against Italy in mind.
A more pertinent call for Schmidt to make concerns Munster’s soon-to-depart full-back Simon Zebo, whose form would ordinarily demand inclusion.
Zebo’s decision to quit Ireland at the end of the season to join Racing 92, though, has already counted against him with an omission from the squad for last November’s Guinness Series.
Though the head coach has insisted the door remains open, the Munster star may have irked the Irish management when quoted in an interview with French newspaper L’Equipe published last Friday that suggested he preferred playing for Munster than within a more rigid structure on the national team.
“With Munster, I’m free to try things, to play the moves that I see. I don’t have any shackles,” Zebo was quoted as saying.
“Joe is a super coach who has had great success with Ireland. We already talked about it face-to-face. I said to him that I couldn’t play in such a rigid structure. I can’t play like that.”
There will also be strong claims to be made for the inclusion of overseas-based locks, given outstanding Champions Cup performances from Irish locks Tadhg Beirne and Donnacha Ryan.
Munster-bound and in-form Beirne has the advantage in that he will be back in Ireland next season having put in a stellar display for Scarlets against Bath last Friday while former Munsterman Ryan made his pitch against his old club in Racing’s win at the U Arena last Sunday.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved