McGrath hungry for more international caps after getting first taste of big time
Published 30/11/2016 | 02:30
Of the nine players who were capped by Ireland for the first time this month, it is interesting to note that two of them made their debuts against the country of their birth.
While the majority of the focus was on Joey Carbery's cameo off the bench in the historic win against New Zealand in Chicago, the Canada game was also an extra special moment for one of his Leinster team-mates.
Although he grew up in Dublin, Luke McGrath was born in Toronto and fittingly he earned his first cap in the victory over Canada.
"It was gas to play against them," McGrath said.
"It's funny the way those two weeks worked out. It was an incredible atmosphere to play in front of, something I'll cherish, and definitely want more of."
The scrum-half has seen his reputation within Leinster grow over the last year and so much so that he has often been entrusted with the captaincy.
At 23, he still has plenty to learn but after serving his apprenticeship under Eoin Reddan and Isaac Boss, McGrath has taken the next step to international level.
But the competition for places at Leinster continues even after Reddan and Boss' departures as Jamison Gibson-Park arrived fresh off the back of winning the Super Rugby title with the Hurricanes.
Being in Carton House with the Ireland squad for the last month has allowed McGrath to learn from Conor Murray whose performance in Chicago typified his world class.
"He's been brilliant. Just even watching him up close. I was lucky enough to be over in Chicago.
"Just seeing little things that he does, that you maybe wouldn't notice on the TV. That kind of thing. His scanning on when to kick, and when not to kick. His support play, his defensive line, talking a lot. I've got very experienced, even training with him, and hopefully there'll be more."
Ireland's November series was a success, even if there may be a tinge of regret about the way in which the return game against the All Blacks unfolded.
To blood eight new faces and still put 52 points on Canada spoke volumes for the strength in depth at Schmidt's disposal and McGrath is a major part of that.
"It's brilliant. It means, as you know, that the work we're doing is paying off," the former St Michael's College student maintained.
"Eight new caps in the Canada game, which is amazing, and I've played with lads like Dan Leavy in school, James Tracy, Garry Ringrose, playing with these guys the last few years.
"Even seeing last week, young Joey Carbery, Garry, all playing extremely well. Josh (van der Flier) was incredible as well. It just gives guys in here a lot of confidence, that what we're doing in here is working. The hard work pays off for us."
McGrath will now reassess his targets for the rest of the season and while he will hope to be included in the Six Nations squad, the summer tour to America and Japan will be a more realistic target to seek more caps.
"I was in camp just before the Pro12 season started, in between pre-season games. I kind of targeted the November series, but obviously thinking you had to play well for Leinster to get selected. To get on for the last 15 minutes against Canada was brilliant and a very proud moment for me and my family.
"A lot can happen between now and then (summer tour). I have to play well, keep the head down, take it one game at a time.
"Hopefully I can be selected in that squad."