By Brendan O’Brien
Sit Jordan Larmour at a table and he’s still hard to pin down. Renowned for his pace and fancy footwork on the field, it is a straight bat that bewitches as he fields questions as to his future.
Journalists and fans seem desperate to pigeon-hole him as either a full-back or a wing but he professes himself happy to jink between the two.
“At the moment I’m enjoying playing both. One game at full-back, one game on the wing. Wherever the team needs me I’m happy to play. The big thing for me is just getting game time because I think you need game time to really improve and grow as a player. “As long as I’m getting that I’m happy out.”
Time is on his side. Larmour is still only 22. Rob Kearney, his main challenger for the No.15 jersey with club and country, is 11 years older and coming to the tail end of a career that in terms of trinkets earned is the most glittering in Irish rugby history.
Larmour has played twice for Leinster this season, once on the wing against Lyon and at full-back for the visit to Dublin of Benetton.
He has played eight of Ireland’s nine games since August, five from the start. Three of those were from full-back, the other two as a winger. Not so much a man caught between two stools as a guy having the best of both worlds.
Joe Schmidt clearly saw his potential as a gate-keeper and game-changer at the back. He lauded Larmour for his performance against France in the last Six Nations when he stepped in for Kearney at the last minute, for example.
And his display against Samoa in Fukuoka was probably his best in a World Cup which, while disappointing from a team viewpoint, demonstrated again the capabilities of a player who is still learning his trade at the highest level.
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Kearney has spoken candidly in the past about the mixed emotions that come with watching a colleague fill your shirt but the pair seem to enjoy a productive working relationship. If Larmour can add the older man’s solidity, positional sense and high-ball expertise to his game than he is really in business.
“We can both learn things from each other’s games. That’s the beauty about this (Leinster) environment, everyone is keen on working together to get better. If I can take a few things from his game and add them to mine then that is definitely a plus.”
Larmour’s development as a full-back is welcome in an Irish context considering it an area where strength in depth is lacking — particularly when Kearney does call it a day — but even a 22-year-old has to look behind him at Leinster when it comes to earning and keeping a place.
Hugo Keenan has made five starts this season at full-back. A former out-half at schools level, he honed his craft as a player with the Ireland sevens. He offers more of a second playmaker option in attack and is thus a very different option to either Larmour or Kearney going forward, literally and figuratively.
“Hugo has been going really well. We saw it last week as well. Every time he puts on the blue jersey he puts a great shift in so there are definitely things I can learn from Hugo as well. There’s a lot of competition in the squad. You need that to get better and drive the standard. It keeps everyone on their toes.”