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Rob Kearney admits mixed feelings over Jordan Larmour's starring role in Ireland's Rugby World Cup win over Scotland

Pumped up: Oran Kearney is eager to get his first Japan World Cup appearance under his belt against the hosts on Saturday
Pumped up: Oran Kearney is eager to get his first Japan World Cup appearance under his belt against the hosts on Saturday
Jordan Larmour

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

At least Rob Kearney has had practice at this stage. On Sunday, he took his seat in the International Stadium in Yokohama and watched the latest pretender to his throne step in and step up.

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Jordan Larmour barely put a foot wrong, dealing with Scotland's high-ball threat and looking dangerous in possession.

The 22-year-old has stood in for Kearney at club level many times, but watching him make himself at home in a green jersey at the World Cup was an uncomfortable experience for the senior man.

In February, he spoke of his discom­fort watching Robbie Henshaw play against England and admitted his relief when things didn't go well.

Now 33, Kearney has already spoken about his ambition to add the World Cup to his long list of achievements and losing his place is not part of the plan.

Days after arrival in Japan, he felt a twinge in his calf and, while he could have played through it, he knew it wasn't worth pushing. Ireland hope to be here for longer than a couple of games.

So, he ceded the jersey to Larmour hoping that the team would do well and he would get back in when fit again.

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He's expected to play against Japan this weekend and Joe Schmidt will be hoping Larmour's excellence will provoke a response from the full-back who played so well in the final warm-up game against Wales.

"I'm great. I'm good, yeah," he says as we circle round to enquire after his health.

"Last week was tough watching on. It's always tougher watching on. I've gotten particularly good at it over the last number of years. You just want to get out and get going.

"We had a good pre-season. We trained really hard and you want to showcase all the work that you've put in over the last couple of months.

"Sometimes it doesn't go like that, but there were a few opportunities for me in the Wales game to do a lit­tle bit of that.

"It will be a different challenge now this week given the opposition and the stakes are higher, the heat and humidity and all those things.

"When the boys came off the field at the weekend I was just so jealous of them that they've got that first one under the belt, so that's going to be a challenge."

There was never a moment when he felt his World Cup was in jeop­ardy, but Kearney knows his body well enough not to push things.

"It was more so a management one. Had it been another point in the competition maybe you would have rushed it a bit more but the consensus was to just try and manage it as best we could."

Although he's as much a team man as anyone, Kearney is honest enough to admit the discomfort when watch­ing Larmour play so well.

"It's not nice," he said. "Given we're provincial team-mates, I've had to endure that a lot over the last few years.

"But at the same time you have to be happy for them as well.

"It was a big game for him. It was a big opportunity but it was a big chal­lenge for him as well, and I think he passed it with flying colours.

"He's such a good young lad and you can't help but be very pleased for him.

"You want Ireland to win and, because we do actually get on very well, I want him to go well.

"I don't want him to go really well! But I want him to go well."

This week, Ireland have reverted to a traditional Japanese hotel to get away from the crowds and pre­pare to face the host nation.

They have the place to themselves and Kearney spent some time in the 'Onsen' (hot spring) to help relax ahead of the game.

The Brave Blossoms play it fast and loose and the full-back is expecting a very different challenge to the one they faced against an off-colour Scot­land.

"Certainly, that wasn't as good as Scotland can play," Kearney said.

"If you had to be very honest about it, will Japan pose a better threat than Scotland? You'd have to say yes based on what they produced at the week­end.

"It's very important that we under­stand that as a team.

"For me, it's more the fact that it will be the first game back. In terms of the two teams, they will keep the ball in play a lot more.

"They won't kick it out. They will try to kick it down the middle more and rush on. They will back their fitness a lot. They will offload a lot more.

"I'd expect ball-in-play time to be higher and the tempo of the game to be higher too.

"We said today in our own team meeting, that this is their cup final.

"They'll have huge support and it will be guns blazing. It should be a fantastic occasion."

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