Six Nations: Jordan Larmour can be Ireland's new Christian Cullen

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Exciting full-back Larmour is primed for his Test bow in the NatWest 6 Nations clash against Italy in Dublin this weekend, after a string of fine performances in his breakthrough campaign with Leinster.

Italy boss Conor O’Shea likened the 20-year-old rookie to All Blacks great Christian Cullen on Thursday – but Ireland skipper Best is convinced Larmour can shake off the hype.

The 35-year-old Ireland hooker Best joked that he got married in the same year that Larmour appeared as a Leinster mascot, but insisted he has no qualms about the highly-rated youngster stepping into the Test arena.

“I’d imagine Jordan might not even have been born when Christian Cullen was producing magic for the All Blacks,” said Best, of Larmour, who will take a seat on Ireland’s bench on Saturday.

“It was Cian Healy who produced a picture of Jordan as a mascot, waving a flag before a Leinster game, in 2009. The most frightening part of that is that I got married in 2009!

“He doesn’t strike you as one who gets too uptight but at the same time he gets very little wrong in training, and that speaks volumes about his character.

“And if you want to see how he reacts in a pressurised environment, just look at how he has gone in the biggest provincial games so far.

“The Champions Cup is one thing, but the big inter-pro games I think are another step up really, and against Munster at Thomond, and then against us at the RDS, he really stood up and showed what he’s capable of.

“With quick ball he can be devastating, so it’s up to us to try to provide that platform for him.”

UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 10: All Black Christian Cullen against England in the Rugby World Cup pool match at Twickenham, Saturday. The All Blacks won 3016. (Photo by Ross Setford/Getty Images)

Larmour has been compared to All Blacks great Christian Cullen.

Former New Zealand star Cullen in fact won the first of his 58 All Blacks caps in 1996, with Larmour born the following year: but Rugby‘s fast-revolving generations have caught the current Ireland squad off guard this week.

Larmour’s destructive best has caught the rest of the Irish provinces cold as Leinster have conjured fine, extended form under ex-England boss Stuart Lancaster.

And now Best believes the fast-improving back-three flier has all the credentials to succeed on the international stage.

Best even revealed the young star’s raw pace can be seen at a walk, when Ireland run build moves from the ground up in training.

“I think we’ve seen quite a bit of him over the years coming in, to fill a spot, and now all the other provinces in some shape or form have been affected by him over the last few months,” said Best.

“Even just the change of pace he has in a walk-through that sounds ridiculous, he’s just a very exciting talent.

“It’s massive for him to get his debut, and for him to do it for the first time, he’s massively deserving of being in the squad.

“He’s quiet, but you just know, there’s always at least one guy to walk in, they may not fill the room with their presence with how vocal they are – but this guy has time on the ball, and he makes what I would find very difficult things look very easy.”

Ireland (15-1): R Kearney; K Earls, R Henshaw, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton, C Murray; J Conan, D Leavy, P O’Mahony; D Toner, I Henderson, T Furlong, R Best (c), J McGrath. Reps: S Cronin, C Healy, A Porter, Q Roux, CJ Stander, K Marmion, J Carbery, J Larmour.

Italy (15-1): M Minozzi; T Benvenuti, T Boni, T Castello, M Bellini; T Allan, M Violi; S Parisse (c), B Steyn, S Negri; D Budd, A Zanni, S Ferrari, L Bigi, N Quaglio. Reps: L Ghiraldini, A Lovotti, T Pasquali, F Ruzza, M Mbanda, E Gori, C Canna, J Hayward.

Referee: Romain Poite (FRA);

Venue: Aviva Stadium;

Kick-off: 16:15;

Live on beIN Sports

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Six Nations: Alun Wyn Jones says he'll have words with "Uncle Eddie"

Alex Broun 9/02/2018
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Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones has played down England’s attempts to pile the pressure on fly-half Rhys Patchell, joking that he will have words with “Uncle Eddie” after Saturday’s Six Nations showdown at Twickenham.

England head coach Eddie Jones opened the verbal hostilities on Thursday by questioning whether “third-choice 10” Patchell, 24, had the “bottle” to deliver against the Red Rose and accusing Alun Wyn of having “intimidated” referee Pascal Gauzere.

“It’s easy to play when the ball is on the front foot and going from side to side,” Eddie Jones said.

“But when it gets a bit cut and thirst, nip and tuck, this will be a proper Test. Then we will see if Patchell has the bottle to handle it.”

Alun Wyn, speaking on Friday, said: “People forget that Rhys Patchell has been in the squad for a good few years now.

“You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. I will have a chat with Uncle Eddie after the game.”

Eddie Jones also compared the rawness of Wales’ nine-10-12 axis to his own.

“George Ford has played 41 tests and he’s got Owen Farrell next to him who’s played 54 tests and he’s got Danny Care inside him, playing his 78th international,” Jones said.

“There’s a lot of experience on either side, but who has Patchell going to look for? He hasn’t got a lot of experience inside or outside him.

“That’s a big task for him. I’d imagine that when (Wales captain) Alun Wyn Jones and the guys go down for breakfast on Saturday morning, they’ll be looking at him thinking: ‘can this kid handle the pressure today?’ It’s a big ask.”

CARDIFF, WALES - FEBRUARY 03: Rhys Patchell of Wales is tackled by Pete Horne during the NatWest Six Nations match between Wales and Scotland at the Principality Stadium on February 3, 2018 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Eddie Jones has questioned whether Rhys Patchell has the “bottle” for the Six Nations.

It’s an unprecedented attack from a serving England coach on an opposing player and on Friday afternoon England assistant coach Neal Hatley was forced to defend his boss.

Hatley said Eddie Jones’ decision to verbally target the two Wales players will not backfire on the Six Nations champions.

The tactic of placing Patchell and Alun Wyn in the crosshairs has been viewed by some commentators as high-risk, serving only to enrage Wales – but Hatley insists singling out opposition ringleaders is standard practice.

Asked whether he thought the decision would backfire, scrum coach Hatley said: “I don’t think so. The focus falls on us now. We have to make sure we are ready for anything that comes our way.

“It’s commonplace to highlight individual players and Rhys Patchell and Alun Wyn Jones are key players for them. It’s been happening for ages in Test Rugby.

“For us it’s about highlighting their key players and we would be silly not to think they have those sort of personnel. That’s all Eddie is doing. It’s not necessarily winding up the opposition.

“I’m sure in their camp they have said they need to get to George Ford and Owen Farrell, that they need to stop Courtney Lawes or Maro Itoje. I’m sure the same conversations happen in camps across the country.”

Eddie Jones also revealed on Thursday that he had complained to World Rugby about the conduct of Alun Wyn towards Gauzere in Wales’ victory over Scotland last Saturday, claiming it was “right out of order”.

BRISTOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 06: Neil Hatley, scrum coach of England looks on during an England media session ahead of the Autumn International against Argentina at Marriott Royal Hotel on November 6, 2017 in Bristol, England. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Neil Hatley, scrum coach of England, has been forced to defend his boss, Eddie Jones.

It is understood that the sport’s global governing have responded by exonerating the Welsh captain of any wrongdoing.

Hatley continued: “We were well within our rights to ask the question of World Rugby.

“They have come back with clarification that the referee was in constant communication with the TMO and so it’s not an issue.

“We have complete faith in Jerome Garces to ref the game against Wales and we have never had an issue with him.”

The extraordinary verbal barrage between camps has added even more spice to an eagerly awaited clash at Twickenham on Saturday evening that may yet decide the fate of this year’s Six Nations.

TEAMS

England (15-1): M Brown; A Watson, J Joseph, O Farrell, J May; G Ford, D Care; S Simmonds, C Robshaw, C Lawes; M Itoje, J Launchbury; D Cole, D Hartley (capt), M Vunipola. Reps: J George, A Hepburn, H Williams, G Kruis, S Underhill, R Wigglesworth, B Te’o, J Nowell

Wales (15-1): L Halfpenny; J Adams, S Williams, H Parkes, S Evans; R Patchell, G Davies; R Moriarty, J Navidi, A Shingler; AW Jones (capt), C Hill; S Lee, K Owens, R Evans. Reps: E Dee, W Jones, T Francis, B Davies, J Tipuric, A Davies, G Anscombe, G North

Referee: Jerome Garces (FRA);

Venue: Twickeham;

Kick-off: 20:45;

Live on beIN Sports

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Six Nations: England coach Eddie Jones needs to sit down and shut up

Alex Broun 9/02/2018
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Okay Eddie – enough.

Yes you have done a truly remarkable job in guiding England to 23 wins out of 24 starts since you took over, winning back-to-back Six Nations titles and taking England to No2 in the world rankings, but seriously, your behaviour is getting out of hand now.

I know everybody loves a good quote – and in a world of the dryest of dry sports personalities you are an oasis of colourful verbiage – everybody is glad for that. But you are taking things too far.

All good to talk up your team and promise them to be “brutal and absolutely ruthless” but when you start taking potshots at opposing players it really is beyond the pale.

It is the greatest irony that Jones is criticising Wales captain, Lions legend and all-round good guy Alun Wyn Jones for being “out of order” for trying to slow down Finn Russell’s conversion last week against Scotland.

It is the England coach’s comments that are out of order, both in his bizarre attack on Alun Wyn and also on his off-field targeting of new Wales fly-half Rhys Patchell.

Jones must be very very confident of an England victory, or else he wouldn’t be stoking the Welsh fire with the ammunition that he is giving Warren Gatland to fire up his troops at Twickenham on Saturday.

CARDIFF, WALES - FEBRUARY 03: Wales player Rhys Patchell runs at the Scotland defence during the NatWest 6 Nations game between Wales and Scotland at Principality Stadium on February 3, 2018 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Rhys Patchell has been one of Eddie Jones’ targets.

If Gatland needs a fire-and-brimstone team talk all he needs to do is stick Jones’ comments up on the wall. Nothing will galvanise the Red Dragons to heroic feats more than defending the honour of their captain and standing beside a new brother.

The only explanation for Jones’ rash remarks is that he has got carried away – as he did when he was sanctioned by World Rugby for being caught swearing on camera during the autumn internationals, unhappy with a referee’s decision.

But now Jones’ is leaping to the defence of the referee, Pascal Gauzere, and admonishing Alun Wyn for the temerity to question a decision, which is every captain’s right.

And as for his attack on Patchell, trying to sow seeds of doubt and fear in the mind of the Scarlets No10, it is very poor form indeed. It is reminiscent of Graham Henry’s uncalled for attacks on Quade Cooper in the 2011 Rugby World Cup – comments that almost came back to haunt Henry.

All Jones does is make everyone hate England more, get further behind Wales and desperately hope Patchell and Alun Wyn teach him a lesson.

It also makes his future appointment as Lions coach a little more difficult. Time to let your players do the talking on the field “Uncle Eddie” – and give it a break.

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