Jordan Larmour is the only uncapped player involved in this week’s Ireland camp ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations opener in Paris.
Natwest 6 Nations: France v Ireland
Saturday: Stade de France, 4.45pm
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
TV: TV3, BBC
Betting: France 2/1, Ireland 4/9, Draw 17/1
At just 20 years of age, the Leinster flyer is on new ground, with most of the Irish rugby supporting community hoping he becomes familiar with it very quickly and lights the place up in green with the same style he’s done in blue.
Most, that is, not all.
Standing in his way if he’s to pull on the No 15 shirt at full-back is a man who has been there and done it all.
Rob Kearney will be 32 when this year’s Six Nations ends, and is certain to add to his 78 international caps.
Larmour may earn his first cap at some stage, and it may come at full-back, but Kearney is the proven quantity while the 20-year-old is still raw and untested at this level.
It’s with that knowledge in mind that Kearney sat down in front of the Irish media at Carton House yesterday, cutting a comfortable figure rather than looking like a player afraid of the bright young thing eyeing his shirt.
“I suppose throughout my whole career I’ve always been in some pretty heavy battles with a lot of 15s,” he said, before reeling off a number of players.
“Felix (Jones), Lukey (Fitzgerald), Geordan Murphy, Girvan (Dempsey) and then Zeebs (Simon Zebo) over the last few years.
“There’s always been a lot of really good players vying for the jersey. I’ve been as impressed as anyone else at some of the stuff (Larmour) has done over the last couple of months and it’s a good reward for him to be called into the Six Nations squad.
“I’ve been lucky enough over the last 10-12 years that every year there is a young player who gets a huge amount of hype.
“I think it’s almost par for the course a little bit at the start of the season.”
Kearney joked that Larmour is a ‘flat out winger’, but deep down he’s confident in his own ability no matter where the Leinster academy player decides to play.
“You always have one young guy who is playing superb rugby and they do get a lot of the headline inches,” he said.
“That’s something I’m used to over the last few years. So you’ve just got to be comfortable in your own skin, confident in your own game and just keep the head down and work hard.”
Leinster’s Jordan Larmour is the only uncapped player in this week’s Ireland camp.
Jacob Stockdale, declared fit after a dead leg, is an option at full-back, as is Andrew Conway and Joey Carbery, but Kearney looks odds-on to start in Paris.
The Louth man is enjoying an injury-free run of form for the first time in a while – a timely occurrence with Larmour’s recent showreel form.
The niggles have disappeared for now, and both Kearney and Joe Schmidt will be hoping they stay away ahead of one of the most taxing tournaments in the sporting calendar.
“I’ve noticed over the last couple of years, my body and how I’m feeling determines a huge part of how I’m playing. Touch wood,” Kearney said.
“I’ve played eight of the last nine games on the bounce now, which is pretty unusual for me over the last few years.
“When my body’s in a good place, mentally I’m enjoying the rugby and then you can start putting a bit of form together.
“ And when you’re in that position, if you’ve guys coming up behind you, it’s good and it definitely spurs you on and has done over the last couple of months.”
Kearney is one of 36 players Schmidt can choose from this Saturday, with the IRFU confirming that every player is available to the head coach after last week’s training camp in Spain.
Dave Kilcoyne, the Munster prop, was withdrawn last week after injuring his knee in the 48-3 win over Castres, is still with the province and is ‘progressing positively’, according to the IRFU.
James Cronin replaced his clubmate, and will be pushing for a place on the bench in Paris.
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