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

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - Gerry Thorn­ley

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.

Ex­u­ber­ant af­ter­math

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.

Cramp­ing up

“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.”

Team lead­ers

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.”

Only blem­ish

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

PHO­TO­GRAPH: KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AP PHOTO

Ire­land’s Jor­dan Lar­mour goes past Italy’s Luca Speran­dio, dur­ing their Test match at Sol­dier Field, Chicago, on Satur­day.

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