Thursday 15 November 2018

'He is far superior right now to Marmion and Cooney' - Neil Francis tips Leinster star to earn Ireland recall

12 October 2018; Luke McGrath of Leinster dives over to score his side's fourth try during the Heineken Champions Cup Pool 1 Round 1 match between Leinster and Wasps at the RDS Arena in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
12 October 2018; Luke McGrath of Leinster dives over to score his side's fourth try during the Heineken Champions Cup Pool 1 Round 1 match between Leinster and Wasps at the RDS Arena in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Neil Francis has picked out Leinster scrum-half Luke McGrath as someone who could force his way into Joe Schmidt's November plans after a stellar start to the season.

The 25-year-old scrum-half missed out on Ireland's summer tour to Australia but has been in scintillating form for his province so far this season, including a two-try performance as Leinster opened their Champions Cup defence with a 52-3 thumping of Wasps.

Ireland head coach Schmidt opted to bring Kieran Marmion and John Cooney as back-up to Conor Murray in the summer, but with the Munster star currently sidelined with a neck issue, Francis thinks that McGrath could be set for a recall.

Writing in last weekend's Sunday Independent, Francis said that McGrath has now passed out Marmion and Cooney in Ireland's scrum-half pecking order.

Read more: Neil Francis: Leinster scored 52 points but there's room to improve - a perfect display would have seen them hit 80

"There were so many good performances against Wasps but I think one player’s plight will become more obvious as the season progresses," Francis said.

"Luke McGrath had a really effective performance on Friday. It is true that his pack even brought his slippers and pipe along on this armchair ride. McGrath picked up an injury at the wrong time of the season last year and missed the Grand Slam and missed out on selection for Australia. He is a far superior player right now to Kieran Marmion and John Cooney. The caveat is that this declaration is made on the basis that he performs for the champions of Europe, who play an irresistible brand of rugby but he is a key component in this, and every part of his game was first class on Friday.

"He made one tackle in the 15th minute when I suppose the game was still alive. Josh Bassett, the Wasps winger, came in off his wing from scrum ball in midfield and as the Leinster back line drifted Bassett was one-on-one with a man much smaller than he. The quality of that tackle was astonishing, as was its timing.

"It was the best tackle of the night and it demonstrated just one of McGrath’s many fine qualities. If he keeps playing like this he will be back in the Ireland picture."

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