Jordan Larmour set to make Test debut for Ireland
Larmour has impressed during his breakthrough campaign with Leinster.
Jordan Larmour should make his Test debut in Ireland’s NatWest 6 Nations clash with Italy in Dublin.
The 20-year-old full-back has won a place on Ireland’s replacements bench for Saturday’s encounter after impressing in his breakthrough campaign at Leinster.
Jack Conan starts at number eight for his Six Nations debut, with CJ Stander dropping to the bench after putting in a mammoth shift in last weekend’s 15-13 win over France in Paris.
Highly rated young tighthead prop Andrew Porter could also make his tournament bow off the bench, while flanker Dan Leavy will make his first Six Nations start.
Leavy impressed in Paris after replacing the luckless Josh van der Flier, who will now miss the rest of the season with knee ligament damage.
Jack McGrath trades places with Cian Healy to start in the front row, and there is precious little for boss Joe Schmidt to choose between when it comes to his two excellent loosehead props.
Ireland show just four changes in all from their last-gasp victory at the Stade de France, with head coach Schmidt putting victory before experimentation to tee up a genuine title charge.
Devin Toner slots back into the starting line-up having lost his locking berth to young Leinster team-mate James Ryan in Paris, with the vastly experienced lineout specialist determined to prove a point on his return.
Connacht’s Quinn Roux takes a seat on the bench as cover at lock, while skipper Rory Best will draw level with Paul O’Connell as Ireland’s third-most capped player of all time, on 108 Test appearances.
Ireland boss Schmidt insisted potential debutant Larmour will not need his hand held if he joins the fray.
“I expect Jordan to provide what he’s been providing in the provincial matches so far, that raw acceleration and the ability to beat players,” said Schmidt, of Larmour.
“And without the ball he wants to make a big contribution too.
“It’s a good situation that he could potentially slot in around experienced players, but at the same time, you don’t place a player and expect them to be looked after.
“He has an expectation that he’ll look after himself and look after what he needs to do and bring those exciting elements I talked about to the game.”
Schmidt admitted he resisted the temptation to start back-up fly-half Joey Carbery and rest frontline playmaker Johnny Sexton, given the fallow weekend that follows Saturday’s Italy clash.
The Ireland boss revealed he wants to keep British and Irish Lions star Sexton battle-hardened, with pivotal clashes against Wales and Scotland round the corner.
“One of the great things about the Six Nations at the moment is that it’s played over seven weeks,” said Schmidt.
“If Johnny didn’t star this week and didn’t play next weekend, then he would have two weekends when he wouldn’t have played.
“So would that have been the best preparation for the next game? That’s what you’re always balancing.
“Joey (Carbery) could potentially play for Leinster next weekend, and he could get that exposure, potentially at 10, and that would be great for Joey, because he’s had that period out and we want to manage that return back into the team.”
Ireland team to face Italy in Dublin on Saturday: R Kearney (Leinster), K Earls (Munster), R Henshaw (Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), J Stockdale (Ulster), J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), J McGrath (Leinster), R Best (Ulster, capt), T Furlong (Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), D Toner (Leinster), P O’Mahony (Munster), D Leavy, J Conan (both Leinster).
Replacements: S Cronin, C Healy, A Porter (all Leinster), Q Roux (Connacht), CJ Stander (Munster), K Marmion (Connacht), J Carbery, J Larmour (both Leinster).