McGrath must show maturity if he's to step up at World Cup - Jennings
Published 30/07/2015 | 02:30
Shane Jennings has backed Jack McGrath to fill Cian Healy's boots, should he miss the World Cup through injury.
Fears have grown over Healy's fitness as he looks to recover from neck surgery in time to be included in Joe Schmidt's 31-man squad.
There were positive signs in Irish Independent Park yesterday where Healy took part in light training but the IRFU have refused to comment on the loosehead prop's fitness and will instead give an update on the entire squad next Tuesday.
If Healy were to be ruled out, it would be significant blow to Schmidt's plans but Jennings is adamant that McGrath is a capable deputy.
"From a group point, Cian has a massive influence. He's a good character to have around," Jennings said yesterday at TV3's '50 days to go' media event.
"It would be a huge loss apart from him even playing. We all know how good a player he is. When he's on form, he's a destructive loosehead around the park.
"From a personal point of view, from the way I know Jack over the last few years, he's got a lot of experience in international games now. I wouldn't have an issue with him playing.
"Jack will take the opportunity and he'll be hungry for it. It's his first World Cup so he'll be chomping at the bit.
"Unfortunately for Cian, if it doesn't work out, it's an opportunity for a number of other guys. It's up to them to make the most of it," he added.
McGrath was central to Ireland's winning Six Nations campaign, starting four of the five games but his temperament was twice called into question last season.
The 25-year-old was suspended for three weeks for stamping on Rory Best in January, while he was fortunate to receive just a yellow card for dropping his knee into the back of Konstantin Mikautadze in the game against the Barbarians in May.
Having watched him closely in recent seasons, Jennings admitted that McGrath must control his temper but he insisted that his style of play is what Ireland require at the World Cup.
"You need players with edge and for it to mean something to them. That's the way Jack plays," Jennings maintained.
"He's a physical, confrontational kind of player. He scrummages well but I think it's a fair point in terms of he has to be able to manage that.
"It's all well and good having that edge, being aggressive and abrasive, but you have to marry that with the discipline and control.
"He certainly would have looked at that. He's getting older. He's getting more mature and I'm sure he'll look back on those and learn from them.
"If he's the man that's going to step up, he's going to have to have the qualities but that discipline as well."
Jennings also backed his former team-mate Leo Cullen to be successful as Leinster coach but questioned the province's decision not to have a direct replacement lined up for Matt O'Connor.
"Personally, in the year that it was, it may not have been the best decision, not having a replacement," he said.
"If they had a replacement of a guy with the standard and credentials that Leo and the rest of the staff could learn off and could drive the place forward, then it was the right call. Not having done that, it doesn't seem like the best call."