Jordan Larmour's time has come and Ireland left with a tough call
"Those two or three games, where we have won or have had good results, it’s attack them. It’s play rugby."
That is Conor Murray's take - in an interview on Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby - on the way to bring it to New Zealand. No better man than Jordan Larmour.
Legends like Brian O'Driscoll, Ronan O'Gara and Paul O'Connell played 10+ times against the All Blacks - for Ireland and the Lions - and lost each time. In the past two years, Murray has played New Zealand four times, winning twice, drawing once and losing the other.
The world champions are so potent in attack that you will struggle to stave them off forever. Joe Schmidt's Ireland are intent on meeting fire with fire. They did so in Chicago, two years ago, and won. They go at them again on November 17.
If attack is the best form of defence against the All Blacks, surely Jordan Larmour comes into the mix?
The 21-year-old scored his first, second and third Test tries against Italy, in Chicago, on Saturday to thrust his name into the conversation at fullback. Italy's XV was severely weakened but Ireland had also left several big hitters at home. Larmour did all that he could do on his first start and did not put a foot wrong.
Jordan Larmour's match stats
249 metres gained
4 clean breaks
12 defenders beaten
3 tackles (none missed)
1 assist pic.twitter.com/cyBs2ixvSc
— Pat McCarry (@patmccarry) November 3, 2018
Larmour's long-term home may yet be on the wing for Ireland [No.14 when Keith Earls eventually slows down] but Schmidt playing him at fullback against Argentina and then New Zealand would add another attacking dimension and a player that can fashion a score in the tightest of corners.
Larmour's first score was the tuned in intercept that Jacob Stockdale has made a staple of his game. His second was outrageous - stepping inside and out to leave two Italian backs for dead.
His third was the reason everyone has got so excited and why many are calling for him to come into the Ireland XV for the opening two Guinness Series games. Taking a pass from John Cooney just outside the Irish 22, Larmour glided past lock Federico Ruzza and fullback Luca Sperandio to get some open space.
Scrum-half Tito Tebaldi was the next victim as Larmour hopped, flung up his left arm as a diversion then stepped off his right and beat him on the outside. Guglielmo Palazzani (No.22) was the fresher man - having come on after 70 minutes - but 80th minute Larmour was still too hot to handle. He slid in and missed him by a clear yard while Michele Campagnaro chased him in to the tryline to at least stop him cantering under the posts.
That is what many were calling Jordan Larmour after a hat-trick on his first ever Ireland start. His rival for the 15 jersey - the present - is Rob Kearney.
Kearney is off the back of an excellent 2017/18 season where, for the first time in a few seasons, there was little debate that he was the best man for the job. That debate has been sparked by Larmour's Soldier Field performance and by his stack of stunning scores since his Leinster debut, last season.
Kearney is the proven player in the white heat of battle and boasts a ridiculous CV, in terms of personal and team accolades. When it comes to being a scoring threat, though, Larmour is streets ahead. Here are their scoring returns since Larmour made his professional debut:
- Rob Kearney - 0 tries in 31 games (30 starts), Leinster & Ireland
- Jordan Larmour - 14 tries in 35 games (21 starts), Leinster & Ireland
Kearney has the trust of Leo Cullen, Stuart Lancaster and Joe Schmidt - thre of the top coaches in the game - and has come up big for Ireland and Leinster on countless occasions. He is not offering enough in attack, however.
Most Test sides know that Kearney will take the ball into contact when he carries. He has a great eye for a gap and for targeting the weak links in defensive chains but that raw pace and ability to beat wingers and fullbacks on the outside has been a part of his game for the past few seasons. Since his double against Scarlets in September 2014, Kearney has scored just one try in 79 games (74 starts) for Leinster and Ireland.
It is that iron-clad confidence and boldness of youth that is brimming for Larmour and giving him the edge. Looking back at Kearney's first 35 games for Leinster and Ireland, they are so similar - Kearney had 13 tries in 35 games (27 starts).
After Ireland fell short in the 2017 Six Nations, Joe Schmidt looked at his back three and accepted that new blood was needed. Since the summer of 2017, seven of Ireland's Test debutants have been able to play across the back three.
Schmidt cut the likes of Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble and Paris-bound Simon Zebo with his typical ruthlessness and with the team in mind.
If Jordan Larmour is going to be Ireland's fullback at the 2019 World Cup, it is worth throwing him up against Argentina or New Zealand in the coming weeks. Or both.