Saturday 22 September 2018

'I just think he's a flat-out winger.... if only' - Rob Kearney ready for Jordan Larmour challenge

Rob Kearney and (inset) Jordan Larmour
Rob Kearney and (inset) Jordan Larmour
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Rob Kearney has seen it all before. He's been Ireland's No 15 for a decade now and every so often the hype train grows around a contender to hit throne.

Jordan Larmour is the latest young buck to hit the scene and the 78-times capped Ireland star who turns 32 a week after this year's Six Nations concludes.

Larmour is 11 and a half years younger than Kearney and is in good form after a series of stunning scores during the Christmas interprovincial games.

At Leinster, he started ahead of Kearney in the Champions Cup game against Glasgow and they lined out together in Montpellier 10 days ago with the youngster on the wing.

And Kearney is hoping that Larmour stays out wide.

"I just think he's a flat-out winger.... if only," he said with a smile.

"I suppose throughout my whole career I've always been in some pretty heavy battles with a lot of No 15s. I could list them: Felix (Jones), Lukey (Fitzgerald), Geordan Murphy, Girvan (Dempsey) and then Zeebs (Simon Zebo) over the last few years.

"There's always been a lot of really good players vying for the jersey.

"I've been as impressed as anyone else at some of the stuff he's done over the last couple of months and it's a good reward for him to be called into the Six Nations squad."

Kearney is comfortable with the increased competition that Larmour and Andrew Conway are providing and believes it is bringing an added edge to his game.

"I think it has to. it's a great thing when you're comfortable in yourself," he said.

"I'd notice over the last couple of years, my body and how I'm feeling determines a huge part of how I'm playing. Touch wood. I've played eight of the last nine games on the bounce now, which is pretty unusual for me over the last few years.

When my body's in a good place, mentally I'm enjoying the rugby and then you can start putting a bit of form together. And when you're in that position, if you've guys coming up behind you, it's good and it definitely spurs you on and has done over the last couple of months.

"I've been lucky enough over the last 10-12 years that every year there is a young player who gets a huge amount of hype and I think it is almost par for the  course a little bit at the start of the season.

"You always have one young guy  who is playing superb rugby and they do get a lot of the headline inches.

"That's something I am used to over the last few years. So you just got  to be comfortable in your own skin, confident in your own game and jus keep the  head down and work hard."

So, is it a case of bring on the challenge?

"A little bit but don't bring it too much!" he added.

Ireland train at Carton House this afternoon and the IRFU are reporting no fresh injury concerns, with Dave Kilcoyne remaining with Munster having damaged his knee two weeks ago.

And Kearney says Ireland are determined to learn from their slow start to last year's campaign in Scotland.

"There was huge optimism last year at the start of the Six Nations," he said.

"Sometimes you het ahead of yourself a little bit. The is always one team in round one of the Six Nations who doesn't turn up and unfortunately that was us last year.

"It can only take 20, 40 minutes like it did in Murrayfield so more so than this first round game we have a massive focus on the first 20, 30 minutes and that is all we are thinking about."

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