Schmidt offers some words of comfort to Carbery and McGrath –
Larmour’s exploits overshadow other landmarks, including the debut off the bench of a young Irish outhalf in Ross Byrne
Whatever about a star being born, Jordan Larmour was certainly the star turn at Soldier Field, stealing the show and the headlines from a game that would otherwise have been decidedly less than memorable.
In marking his first Test start with a hat-trick, this constituted something of a benchmark in his fledgling but potentially brilliant career. For sure there will be tougher Tests ahead, and it’s doubtful he’ll ever receive a more gift-wrapped try at Test level than his first, courtesy of a horribly askew floated pass by the otherwise impressive Michele Campagnaro. Not so much an intercept, more a try-scoring assist from an opponent.
Even so, the trademark dancing feet and acceleration he showed for his second and third tries will remain weapons against anybody, and he has a strong work ethic as well as the fearlessness of youth and all that.
His instinctive way of playing is almost innocent and carefree, and he is the same off the pitch. In the exuberant aftermath of announcing himself to the world, it was a case of bring on the world.
Asked how far this team could go, Larmour said: “Long term we want to be World Cup champions. But there is a good bit of rugby to be played. There are three more huge games coming up this month. Then the Six Nations, so we just want to keep building on performance. We will look at this game, review it, and try to keep building and keep the momentum up. We want to keep getting better. But the sky is the limit for this team.”
In this Larmour was merely saying what every player feels in every leading rugby nation, but prompted by the suggestion that the fear Irish sides may have had of the All Blacks had gone, Larmour concurred.
“Yeah, I think so. Everyone is up for the [All Blacks] challenge, but we are up for Argentina next week. Looking to the All Blacks, no one is scared of them, no one is afraid of them. They are a quality team. So are we. We just need to turn up on the day and we can turn them over.”
Such sentiments are bound to grab headlines, and not just hereabouts, and perhaps also a proverbial rap on the knuckles, but the 21-year-old was again just being candid without being disrespectful.
This special week in his life had been made all the more memorable by his parents Ian and Ann surprising him by turning up in Chicago on Friday, and how happy they must have been with that decision.
Asked if his dad played rugby, Larmour said: “No, not really, he was into motorbikes.”
Heretofore, Larmour’s six caps had all been off the bench, and coming on the wing, centre and fullback, underlined his versatility. He himself still has no real preference.
“Not really. You know, if I get an opportunity at 15 or on the wing I just want to take it with both hands. Show what I can do. No, I don’t have a preference. I just want to take the opportunities and play well.”
Having announced his arrival in the senior game with a try on his provincial debut and those stunning solo efforts away to Ulster and Munster last season, Larmour is showing no signs of second-season syndrome, and now has six tries in seven games this term. Indeed, in 35 competitive games for Leinster and Ireland, 14 of them off the bench, Larmour has already scored 11 tries.
His favourite of this trio in Chicago was the third, by which time he had been shifted to the left wing, with the hooter having signalled it was the last play of the match.
“It was probably the last one. I was wrecked. I knew there were about 10 seconds left, and I had started cramping up, but John Cooney was the one who was running across so I dropped under and saw a little gap and just went for it. So, yeah, I was pretty tired after that one.”
Larmour may have come across as confident rather than cocky after this performance, but he is clearly a grounded, level-headed young man with few airs and graces about him regardless of the increased hype.
“I suppose I will keep my head down, keep trying to get better. I don’t really listen to the hype or anything like that. People are always going to build you up to knock you down.
“I have got a pretty good family around me, good friends who keep me grounded. I think I am a pretty humble guy, so I don’t really have any problems trying to stay grounded. At times it was just another day for me.”
Nor would any big-headed tendencies be tolerated in any environment overseen by Joe Schmidt, not to mention the team leaders in this group of players and, of course, the increased competition for places.
“You are only as good as your last performance, so you need to keep turning up every week. The competition in the squad is what drives you on. We are all trying to get better. It is really important to have competition to stay grounded.
“In this environment everyone is trying to improve. It is a pretty good place to be.”
There also remains something of the starry-eyed youngster playing alongside some of his boyhood heroes, whom he listed as Brian O’Driscoll, Rob Kearney and Keith Earls.
“Just watching how they played, I picked things out of their game, and tried to apply them to mine. With Rob and Keith it’s a case of talking to them when I am in camp and trying to learn from them. They are pretty good people to have around you, but everyone kind of tries to help everyone. If you have a question you can go to anyone to ask them, and you will get an answer, talk through it.” Larmour’s exploits overshadowed all other landmarks, including the debut off the bench of a young Irish outhalf in Ross Byrne. True to his low-key off-field demeanour that didn’t bother him at all.
“That’s just what Jordan does really, it doesn’t even shock us too much anymore,” said the smiling Byrne. “When he makes those breaks it’s pretty special.”
Even so, this was the biggest day in Byrne’s fledgling career too. “Massive. It probably hasn’t even hit me yet, it’s still sinking in. It seems like it all happened so quick. I’m sure as the hours go by I’ll reflect and be absolutely delighted. I have my parents over, my family, so it’s brilliant.”
Having been part of a seamless introduction off the bench and in for the last three tries, converting the first two, the only blemish on Byrne’s day was his miss with the last kick of the game.
“It’s still killing me a little bit to be honest... a lot actually,” he admitted with a rueful chuckle. “I just have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
In any event he finally got that first cap, having sat on the bench for 80 minutes in the third Test last June. “I was thinking ‘am I ever going to get a cap?’ But that’s just the way it is, but obviously I was lucky enough to get a cap today and I was delighted with it.” He didn’t let it spoil his summer. “I didn’t really think about it. I just thought ‘get back to Leinster, take each game at a time’ and then if I get a chance in November try and take that as best as possible. I didn’t want to look too far ahead because in rugby anything can happen. You can get an injury or whatever. I just wanted to focus on my performance and playing well.”
With that he and Will Addison were off to sing a song in front of the squad, a compulsory part of any debutant’s day, and Byrne said he would sing something by the Dubliners.
That’s just what Jordan does really, it doesn’t even shock us too much anymore. When he makes those breaks, it’s pretty special – Ross Byrne
Ireland’s Jordan Larmour goes past Italy’s Luca Sperandio, during their Test match at Soldier Field, Chicago, on Saturday.