McLaughlin honing second-row skills
Published 02/03/2011 | 05:00
It may have faded from view for most of the general public recently, but the continuing Magners League action has been important for some.
The introduction of Treviso and Aironi meant four more fixtures had to be squeezed into a tight schedule, meaning this month the provinces have gone head-to-head with internationals -- with unsurprising results.
Coaches must deal with stretched resources as they try to keep their ship on course for the play-offs.
But there are some players for whom the timing is perfect -- Kevin McLaughlin for example.
After seven months on the sidelines after knee and shoulder surgery, the Leinster and Ireland blindside is approaching full fitness thanks to the regular run of games in February.
He's seen by some as the solution to Ireland's line-out struggles at the tail and his return to form may have come at the right time, as he'll hope to prove on Friday against the Scarlets.
"I'm getting close now," he said. "It's taken a bit longer than I would have liked. It's been frustrating at times, up and down in terms of my form, but I feel I'm getting there.
"The Italian teams coming on did actually provide a good few opportunities for me to get a good few games while the Six Nations is on. Whereas before it's been a game every three weeks, it's been games week-in, week-out, which has been very beneficial."
While others are touting him for the Ireland back-row, McLaughlin is more worried about winning his place back in the Leinster first team.
While he was rehabbing his serious injuries, Dominic Ryan and Rhys Ruddock joined Sean O'Brien in jumping the queue for the No 6 jersey.
The 26-year-old is now honing his second-row skills to make himself more valuable to Leinster and Ireland.
"I've been getting a lot of ribbing for it. I like it," he said. "I've been working on the line-out a lot. It's another string to my bow.
"Getting on 22s and getting on teams, the more positions you can play the better. No 6 to second-row is a reasonably sensible swap.
"I played a bit of second-row when I was younger and I found the scrimmaging came quite naturally. There is a few technical elements, getting my body position right."