Livewire Leinster back Jordan Larmour will not need his hand held through his Test match debut, according to Ireland boss Joe Schmidt.
Schmidt has named the 20-year-old on the bench for Saturday’s NatWest 6 Nations clash against Italy in Dublin.
Larmour has lit up the Guinness PRO14 and Champions Cup in his breakthrough campaign with Leinster, and Schmidt now believes he is ready for international action.
“I expect Jordan to provide what he’s been providing in the provincial matches so far, that raw acceleration and the ability to beat players,” said Schmidt.
“And without the ball he wants to make a big contribution too.
“It’s a good situation that he could potentially slot in around experienced players, but at the same time, you don’t place a player and expect them to be looked after.
“He has an expectation that he’ll look after himself and look after what he needs to do and bring those exciting elements I talked about to the game.”
With a break in the Six Nations calendar coming up, Schmidt has resisted the temptation to start back-up fly-half Joey Carbery – who broke his wrist against Fiji in November – and rest frontline playmaker Johnny Sexton against the Italians.
The Ireland head coach revealed he wants to keep British and Irish Lions star Sexton battle-hardened, with pivotal clashes against Wales and Scotland round the corner.
“One of the great things about the Six Nations at the moment is that it’s played over seven weeks,” said Schmidt.
“If Johnny didn’t start this week and didn’t play next weekend, then he would have two weekends when he wouldn’t have played.
“So would that have been the best preparation for the next game? That’s what you’re always balancing.
“Joey could potentially play for Leinster next weekend, and he could get that exposure, potentially at 10, and that would be great for Joey, because he’s had that period out and we want to manage that return back into the team.”
Jack Conan starts at number eight for his Six Nations debut, with CJ Stander dropping to the bench after a mammoth shift in last weekend’s 15-13 win over France in Paris.
Highly-rated young tighthead prop Andrew Porter could also make his tournament bow off the bench, while flanker Dan Leavy will make his first Six
Leavy impressed in Paris after replacing the luckless Josh Van der Flier, who will now miss the rest of the season with knee ligament damage.
Schmidt insisted Stander dropping to the bench centred as much around handing Conan a chance to impress as easing the workload on the Munster talisman.
“Some of it is mileage. CJ Stander had 42 cleanouts and 23 carries in the game in Paris, which while not attritional for CJ – he’s in great shape, it’s really rewarding some performances by Jack Conan as well,” said Schmidt.
“But it’s an opportunity to try to keep a freshness in these games, they do become if not anything else mentally challenging.”