Thursday 15 November 2018

Tony Ward: Kearney feeling the pressure as sky is the limit for Larmour

 

Leinster’s Jordan Larmour, at Energia Park yesterday, has hit the ground running. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Leinster’s Jordan Larmour, at Energia Park yesterday, has hit the ground running. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Tony Ward

Tony Ward

Thankfully it didn't set the tone for the weekend but for the second time in a fortnight on the road, this time in the Arms Park, an even stronger Munster line-up were abysmal.

For younger readers I think it is worth pointing out that for a long time, before the game went professional, Cardiff RFC were recognised as the leading club in the rugby world.

Much like France at international level, Cardiff have lost their way in the modern era.

I'm not sure it will happen but I long for the day when both are back in their pomp.

In more recent times Cardiff have been competitive when finishing mid-table but they should be so much better than that.

They are a capital-city club boasting a significant catchment area.

Whatever about the Newport Gwent Dragons, Cardiff have lost their way to the Neath-Swansea Ospreys as well as the Llanelli Scarlets.

They have a long way to go to get back but performances like Friday night represent a significant step in the right direction.

Caution

I would, however, urge caution because beyond Andrew Conway's brace of early tries, Munster, in almost every facet, looked flat.

The overwhelming and most relevant aspect in the context of Joey Carbery's arrival is the lack of shape to the Munster game based on this no-show.

The lineout, scrum, ruck, maul and defensive alignment (cringeworthy in Cardiff) will have to be addressed before Saturday's visit of Ulster to Thomond Park.

Without that fundamental platform no out-half - not even Johnny Sexton - could have arrested Friday's collective dive to the bottom.

Carbery has not been at Munster a wet week so I doubt he has the confidence or that Ronan O'Gara-type personality to get his opinion across forcibly mid-match.

He wasn't by any means the worst but the new out-half, despite that mazy running early on, wasn't good at the Arms Park no more than he was as great as some suggested against the Ospreys in Irish Independent Park the previous week.

That said, it is imperative that Johan van Graan nails his colours firmly to the mast and continues to select Carbery at out-half in every game he can.

It is difficult to highlight a redeeming feature from Friday night's performance.

It wasn't quite in the Saracens league of under-performance on the road - remember that 33-10 thumping at Allianz Park in 2015? - but it was up there.

I believe in Carbery and he has the potential to become the type of game-running out-half Munster and Ireland crave.

At the Arms Park it looked as if the team were waiting for the one wearing 10 to spark the flame but for Munster, above every other professional entity, it doesn't work that way.

Even a Sexton or an O'Gara would have struggled against the Blues, so what chance does a rookie learning his trade in a totally new environment have?

A mirror-gazing session should be central to post-match analysis for each and every one on duty last weekend.

This current Munster squad will come good, of that I have no doubt.

But it is imperative that Carbery and Tadhg Beirne, in particular, are given the space and platform in which to settle.

It is time for a few leaders to stand up and be counted.

Of the rest, Ulster were brave to a fault when digging out the draw at the Cheetahs.

It is difficult to put a value on the spirit being engendered by these late, late shows whether at home or in Bloemfontein.

And if I could highlight one particular player's input in this period of transition it is Darren Cave.

Cave's best days are behind him, at least in representative terms, but having got to know him in recent years through shared commentary work at the BBC, it is enlightening to see that astute rugby mind putting into practice the values he espouses when behind the microphone.

Here is a leader doing what a leader needs to do.

Another big step was taken by Connacht under Andy Friend over the Scarlets with Bundee Aki, Jack Carty and Sean O'Brien to the fore and the back-three plus second-half replacement Niyi Adeolokun significantly moving with confidence again.

The doubters out west must watch Carty. At 26 and with consistent selection, which he is getting, Joe Schmidt will be taking stock. For now the green of Connacht is all that matters, but keep an eye on him.

Credentials

At the RDS, Leinster revealed their credentials, against a surprisingly competitive Edinburgh, as the Irish side best-equipped to take on Europe in three weeks' time.

Back-to-back interprovincials lie immediately ahead but they already look in good nick to face Wasps on October 12.

There was much to admire about Saturday's hugely intensive battle but we'll limit it to the one in the No 15 shirt.

There is set to be some scrap ahead for the Leinster and Ireland full-back shirt.

If Rob Kearney is to keep his hands on blue as well as green then he is going to have to produce the form of his life because the sky is the limit for Jordan Larmour.

Irish Independent

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