Rob Kearney has admitted he has been “impressed” by Leinster colleague Jordan Larmour as the pair battle for the Ireland full-back starting jersey ahead of the Six Nations.
The vastly experienced 31-year-old has seen first-hand the development of the promising 20-year-old, who was handed his first call-up to Ireland’s senior ranks earlier this month, at the Irish province.
Kearney, with 78 caps to his name, has been a firm favourite under Joe Schmidt’s leadership since the former Leinster coach took charge in 2013 as Ireland prepare to open their campaign against France at the Stade de France on Saturday.
“I just think he’s a flat-out winger….if only,” joked Kearney.
“I suppose throughout my whole career I’ve always been in some pretty heavy battles with a lot of 15s. I could list them: Felix Jones, Luke Fitzgerald, Geordan Murphy, Girvan Dempsey and then Simon Zebo over the last few years.
“There’s always been a lot of really good players vying for the jersey. I’ve been as impressed as anyone else at some of the stuff he’s done over the last couple of months and it’s a good reward for him to be called into the squad.”
Have a watch of some of Jordan Larmour's best moments against Ulster
Kearney, heading into his 11th Six Nations, is confident that Larmour’s emergence will bring out the best in him and has taken great positives out of his clean bill of health in recent weeks.
“I think it has to. It’s a great thing when you’re comfortable in yourself,” he added.
“I’d noticed over the last couple of years, my body and how I’m feeling determines a huge part of how I’m playing. Touch wood.
“I’ve played eight of the last nine games on the bounce now, which is pretty unusual for me over the last few years.
“When my body’s in a good place, mentally I’m enjoying the rugby and then you can start putting a bit of form together.
“And when you’re in that position, if you’ve guys coming up behind you, it’s good and it definitely spurs you on and has done over the last couple of months.”