Tuesday 12 December 2017

Being involved with Ireland has me on Cloud Nine

Player Diary: Luke McGrath

Luke McGrath. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / Sportsfile
Luke McGrath. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / Sportsfile

Luke McGrath

What a few weeks this has been! To think back to this time last year, I never would have thought I would have been involved in this year's Six Nations squad. That's not to say that I didn't have my ambitions, of course I did, but I maybe felt that it was further away than this season.

I am delighted to be a part of it after receiving my first international cap in November against Canada and like everyone else in there, the next piece of the puzzle is how to make that jump from being named in the extended squad to making the match-day 23.

To give some insight, the transition from Leinster to Ireland is pretty instant. So while others were able to take some down time and head away that was not an option here. Not that I'd any issue of course!

So after finishing the game against Castres, I was straight into Carton House for a week of intense training and learning. This week is always challenging because you have to put all the calls and tactics of Leinster on hold, and pick up new ones displayed by the Irish national coaches. This always puts players to the test but everyone enjoys the challenge.

During game week the intensity within the environment always rises and that was no different in the build-up to Scotland. Everyone is fighting for a place in the match-day squad.

Unfortunately, it wasn't to be for me but I know training with such a talented squad on a daily basis is just going to improve me as a player. I am aware of the facets of my game I need to improve on and I'm eager to work hard at them. When not selected for a match-day squad it is important to support those that have been selected. Therefore, time was spent observing Scotland's play, so the squad would be prepared for the test that lay ahead.

Dave Kearney scores Leinster’s third try against Treviso. Photo: Sportsfile
Dave Kearney scores Leinster’s third try against Treviso. Photo: Sportsfile

There really is no point feeling sorry for yourself. Getting behind those selected and buying in to that team ethic benefits everyone and you'd like to think that it will be the same when the shoe is on the other foot.

Unfortunately, the game did not go the way we had all hoped so it was a disappointing start to the week reviewing the game from Murrayfield. Even though Scotland played well, we felt that we left a lot of opportunities out there. However, we had to get over the disappointment quickly as another Test match was approaching.

After two busy days in Carton, I returned to Leinster HQ. Again this is another part to the selection that is new to me where again you can be asked to fit back in with your club despite being out of the loop for a few weeks. People underestimate I think how difficult that is for players and it definitely took me a training session or two to feel comfortable again. But it was great to get the chance to pull on a jersey and get game-time.

Treviso is a difficult place to play with a small but passionate crowd rooting against you so we were delighted to get away with the five points. After reviewing the game, we felt we were all a little rusty as we hadn't had a game in a few weeks. However, it was fantastic to get a winning bonus point away from home.

Luke McGrath at Ireland training in Carton House. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Luke McGrath at Ireland training in Carton House. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

A special mention to Dave Kearney. Over the past few months I've seen Dave struggle with injury so it was encouraging to see him out there causing the defence a lot of problems. A man-of-the-match performance including two tries was a perfect comeback.

We now have a very short turn-around leading into tonight's game. A Sunday to Friday game week is always challenging as you get a few days less recovery and shorter training time on the pitch. Edinburgh are a quality side with a lot of internationals so we know the difficult task that lies ahead. In saying that, we are all looking forward to being back in the RDS where the support is always incredible.

Lastly, I would like to mention the passing of our dear friend and medic Professor Arthur Tanner. Arthur was an incredible supporter of Leinster Rugby throughout his life and he will always be remembered fondly by the Leinster family.

Irish Independent

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