Best backs Irish youngster Larmour
SIX NATIONS SPOTLIGHT: Irish youngster Jordan Larmour possesses the character to handle Test rugby and the weight of expectation his sublime talents have attracted, Ireland captain Rory Best said.
Larmour, 20, has already made such an impression for his club Leinster that he earned a comparison with former New Zealand fullback great Christian Cullen from Italy coach Conor O'Shea, who is anticipating his Test debut off the replacements bench in their Six Nations clash on Saturday with almost as much relish as his Ireland counterpart Joe Schmidt.
Best, who by comparison will be winning his 108th cap, said Larmour wouldn't allow such compliments go to his head.
"Yeah, he can brush that off. I am not sure he was born when Cullen was playing [1996-2003 for the All Blacks]!" joked 35-year-old Best at his eve of match press conference at Lansdowne Road.
"Cian Healy [Ireland prop and Leinster teammate of Larmour] produced a picture in 2009 when Jordan was a mascot.
"That is terrifying as I got married that year!
"To be able to do all that he has done firstly against Munster at Thomond Park when Leinster rested their big guns and then sadly against us [Ulster] speaks volumes of his talent and character,"
Best, who joins Paul O'Connell as the third most capped Ireland player of all time behind Brian O'Driscoll and Ronan O'Gara, says Larmour lights up the training pitch.
"Just to see him in training even his change of pace in the walkthrough, which may sound ridiculous, he is a massive talent.
"This is a big moment for him: a debut, something everyone dreams of. For him to do it in the manner he has done it of being selected, he is deserving of being in the squad.
For both club and country, Larmor is putting pressure British and Irish Lion Rob Kearney, a veteran of 79 Irish caps and two Lions tours.
"He's quiet. There has always been at least one guy over the years who may not fill the room with his presence in terms of how vocal they are, but what he does on the field makes things I would find very difficult look very easy," hooker Best added of Larmour.
Best, who was off the pitch by the time Johnny Sexton's drop goal in Paris clinched a dramatic 15-13 victory in overtime against the French last weekend, is mindful his predecessor as national captain O'Connell had several run-ins with Saturday's French referee Romain Poite.
Best, who may also have been taking note of England head coach Eddie Jones's criticism of Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones trying to pressure Poite's compatriot Pascal Gauzere last Saturday to refer Peter Horne's late try for Scotland to the video referee, said you had to choose your moments to approach Poite.
"Raymond Poite is definitely somebody who doesn't appreciate being shouted at," said Best.
"That might be down to his former day job [he was a policeman], you have to be careful of when to approach him but he is also very open about having a conversation.
"The referees who bat you away, that you don't want. You want there to be a chance of open dialogue.
"I always find Romain receptive at the right time.
"Shouting at the referee and being really vocal in their face serves no purpose, it is hard to intimidate a referee."