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Bittersweet Ireland bow will stand Larmour in good stead: Lancaster

 

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

As the last visiting coach to claim a Six Nations victory in Dublin, Stuart Lancaster is well placed to assess the coming weeks for Ireland.

Ask him to take on Sergio Parisse's claim that Joe Schmidt's men are better than Eddie Jones' and he'll demur, but as a student of the game who has coached at the very top level and is working closely at hand with so many of the national team during his day job with Leinster, he has plenty to offer.

Yesterday, he oversaw training at Donnybrook as a number of the Ireland bench players made their return and he found time for a quiet word with Jordan Larmour.

The 20-year-old made his international debut last Saturday but is likely to be back in blue as the province take on the Scarlets at the RDS Arena.

The outside back came into the Italy game on the crest of a wave, but had a couple of hairy defensive moments. However, he also showed some of his outlandish skills with the ball in hand.

And Lancaster believes he will bank the experience and be all the better for it.

"I was quite fortunate in a lot of ways in that I gave 25 or 30 players their first cap with England and a lot of them were Jordan's age," he said at the announcement of a partnership between Leinster and the Intercontinental Hotel.

"Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, George (Ford), Owen (Farrell), the list goes on. One of the markers for me was whether they would have the ability or not to deal with the game, the occasion, the week leading into the game was their temperament and personality.

"There were one or two that I was more cautious of and maybe I didn't pick them for whatever reason.

"The ones who I felt had the temperament, you'd pick and they would never let you down.

"Jordan is in that category. He has a great temperament, he's hungry to learn, wants to get better; if he makes a mistake he won't dwell on it.

"A player who has made a mistake can sometimes be thinking in a game, 'Oh my God I've just made a mistake' or, 'The consequence of the mistake is this'. They go out of the moment and the best place to stay is the moment all the time. Jordan can do that.

"You saw that, it didn't faze him because the next thing he wanted to do was get his hands on the ball. He got the ball, stepped and the guy fell over. He didn't even touch him.

"We have seen him do that so many times in training. Jordan's biggest strength, as well as his undoubted skill-set, is his temperament. I am 100% certain that he will learn from it but not be fazed by it."

Although many Irish fans are allowing their minds to wander towards Twickenham, Lancaster believes that Wales will come to Dublin with plenty of confidence next weekend.

And yet he believes the home advantage is a significant factor in Ireland's favour.

"I was lucky, we managed to beat Ireland in Ireland," he recalled. "I think Brian O'Driscoll's wife had given birth that morning, so we caught him on a quiet day! There's a huge confidence that the Irish players have from playing at the Aviva, they've had a lot of success there and a lot of memories.

"That drives standards, expectation and the desire to want to win. I think they are very difficult to beat, but to be a champion team you've got to win at home and away.

"It shows the mark of the team, the maturity of the Irish team that without playing brilliantly against France they found a way to win. They deserved it really.

"To do what they did with the culmination of Johnny Sexton's drop goal was exceptional and shows how far the squad has matured. All teams go through ups and downs, defeats and wins, and Ireland have had one or two losses along the way but they look a very, very accomplished team."

The try-less nature of that win, in difficult conditions, in Paris has been a talking point and many have pointed to the multi-phase attacking play Leinster can achieve on Lancaster's watch as a way forward.

However, he concedes that the fluidity club teams can attain is more difficult to achieve in the narrow window afforded to the Test coaches.

"I think it's possible, you've seen the best - New Zealand - do it," said Lancaster (left). "The difference between international and club coaching is that in international coaching you only get a short space of time.

"You get a week's camp and then you play your first game away against France.

"They're not all from Leinster, you've got lads from Munster, Ulster and Connacht.

"You go back to learning the Irish calling system and as a player you get the club calling system out of your mind - that synergy takes a little bit of time to create and I think it is more difficult at international level because of the time you get together to organise them, and you are dealing injuries.

"That's the difference, that is why the more cohesion and time you have together as an international team the more likely your chance of being successful."

For now, Lancaster's focus is on the Scarlets, with whom Leinster are neck and neck at the top of Conference B of the PRO14. The teams - who met in last year's semi-final - face off twice in three weeks in games that will have ramifications on both of their seasons.

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