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McGrath is more than slotting in for Healy


Leinster's Jack McGrath. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Jack McGrath. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Jack McGrath. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

The greatest compliment paid to Jack McGrath is the limited column inches given over to how Leinster and Ireland have missed the pyrotechnic skills of Cian Healy.

Let's get one thing straight. This is not to devalue the 'out of this world' attributes of Healy, the best in his position, even on a global scale.

"We're very privileged that, here at Leinster, we have two of, in my opinion, the best loose-head props in the northern hemisphere under our roof," said Leinster scrum coach Marco Caputo.

"He (McGrath) offers you things that most players at that elite level of Test rugby don't give you.


"He'll consistently top the tackle count. He's very good when he carries the ball. He's very good on his detail and doesn't make mistakes."

It was instructive how Ireland boss Joe Schmidt kept faith with McGrath for the full eighty minutes against Australia when he had the impact of Dave Kilcoyne ready to enter.

"It's becoming a bit of a habit. It's not too bad. I'd played a few 80's earlier on this season and had got a bit used to it," said McGrath.

Okay, Mike Ross lasted the full term at the office too. But, to suggest Kilcoyne is a better loose-head back-up than Rodney Ah You a tight-head reserve, at the moment, is something of an understatement.

"In previous times, it was 50/60 minutes, so to go the full 80 was tough going," reviewed McGrath.

"Looking back on last year and the New Zealand game, it was the same scenario. So, getting into that, was a bit nervy. It was good to come through (Australia) in a positive manner.

"I think, obviously, it is a nice compliment but, like, Dave would come on and done the exact same job.

"I just think they felt, the way I was going, it was quite tense and they were attacking the whole time for the last 10/15 minutes.

"Maybe bringing somebody on might have been a disruption, not necessarily anyone in particular."

McGrath was an international novice when he made 'that mistake' against the All Blacks which eventually, cost Ireland a historic first win over New Zealand.

That wasn't the losing of the game. Undoubtedly, Ireland should have shut down the Kiwis and coach Schmidt counted seven system errors in the lead-up to Dane Coles' sickening try.

When Australia came knocking last Saturday week, McGrath showed he had learned from his previous indiscretion.

"Experience plays a massive roll in that as well. If you have been in that scenario before, you know what not to do," he noted.

"I suppose I have just got used to playing at that level and just getting fitter and just putting yourself into those positions to make those tackles or those carries or anything like that."

A mistake is only unforgivable if you don't learn from it and McGrath has quickly moved from winning his first cap to being a legitimate international force.

"To come through again then with the positives this year, gives us massive confidence."

Potential has moved onto progress. There is more to come, much more.

"You are never the finished article," conceded McGrath.

"I don't think Brian O'Driscoll would ever say himself that he was the finished article when he finished playing and Paul O'Connell is always trying to fix small parts of his game.

"You are never the perfect player. When the players have that mantra it is the best way to be.

"If you think you have it all, you get stale. That's not the way to be if you want to be successful."

He will now take the feelgood factor from Ireland and turn it towards the return to The Champions Rugby Cup for Leinster against Harlequins at The Stoop on Sunday.

"Coming back in, it is great to see the lads. The squad is tight," he said.

"When you're getting drilled for four weeks (with Ireland), trying to learn plays quite quickly, coming back in, you rely on a bit of muscle memory."

Harlequins are not setting the Premiership on fire, falling to Bath last Friday and to eighth in the table.

"I think they will go back to their scrum and maul. It's going to be a massive weapon for them."