Leinster full-back Jordan Larmour 'very close' to Ireland Test debut

Jordan Larmour is "very close" to making his Test debut in Ireland's NatWest 6 Nations clash with Italy on Saturday, according to Richie Murphy.

Assistant coach Murphy hailed Leinster full-back Larmour for hitting his stride with little delay after stepping into Ireland's senior squad for the first time.

The uncapped 20-year-old could be among a clutch of changes from head coach Joe Schmidt when Ireland host the Azzurri, following last weekend's punishing 15-13 win in France.

Joey Carbery will be pushing for a start at fly-half, but Murphy insisted Ireland do not need to hold back frontline playmaker Johnny Sexton, following his last-gasp drop-goal winner in Paris.

"Jordan Larmour is very close to being ready, he has learned very quickly," said Ireland skills coach Murphy.

"It is just a matter of whether it is right this week or not and that will come down to the selection process, but we are not looking at him and saying 'he's not ready'.

"Every Six Nations game is one you have to win which makes it different from November.

"We have such a strong squad we do feel comfortable in every player so we'll have a look at it.

"Johnny Sexton wants to play every game, all the players who were in France want to play every game. I don't think it's a case of us wrapping him in cotton wool, I don't think he needs that."

British and Irish Lions star Sexton's monster 45-metre drop-goal dug Ireland out of a worrying hole with the last play of a testing tournament-opening battle in Paris.

Teddy Thomas' converted try had Ireland trailing 13-12 into the final throes, before Sexton capped a 41-phase attack with the winning strike three minutes into overtime.

Ireland could easily be forgiven for wanting to keep frontline playmaker Sexton out of the firing line when Conor O'Shea's Italy pitch up in Dublin this weekend.

Murphy believes boss Schmidt and Sexton himself will have no such thoughts, but did concede that understudy Carbery is itching for opportunities.

Carbery was assured as he ran Ireland's attacking play when an experimental line-up edged past Fiji 23-20 in November, but the 22-year-old suffered a wrist problem that he has only just now fully shaken off.

The Leinster youngster features most in the 15 shirt for his province, but Murphy remains relaxed about his development at 10 in Ireland's ranks.

"Joey Carbery hasn't had a massive amount of time through injury and when he did get on for Leinster he came on at full-back," said Murphy.

"He runs in our team at training at 10; that's the best preparation for him at the moment.

"We can't say when he will get on the pitch this week or how much time he'll get. We can't look at it like that, we just deal with the game as it comes and see where we go from there.

"Even the guys who started in November but made their first Six Nations debut at the weekend realised that there was a huge jump in intensity."

- PA

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