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

Nick Purewal 18:52 09/02/2018
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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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