Wednesday 22 November 2017

McGrath eager to impress in Europe 'dress rehearsal'

Luke McGrath: 'We've got a lot more leaders coming back so it's only going to benefit the young lads'
Luke McGrath: 'We've got a lot more leaders coming back so it's only going to benefit the young lads'
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

The returning Irish players will have brought a fresh impetus to Leinster training this week but few will need to be reminded of last year's trip to Treviso.

Leinster just about managed to escape Italy with a draw, which in many ways typified what was a fractured season.

There is a new-found belief and confidence under Leo Cullen and his new-look coaching staff and when they travel to Italy on Sunday, it will be to take on a Treviso side who are without a league win in 12 games.

Luke McGrath started the draw last season and although Leinster will be expected to win this weekend, the 22-year-old has warned against complacency.

"Not even last year, the season before we only won by a point so we've always had a very tough game over there," the scrum-half warned.

"We weren't accurate at all last year; any time we got into their 22 we didn't convert the phases into points so just being accurate and clinical is our focus now."

The Champions Cup is just two weeks away and for McGrath and several other players, Sunday will provide another crucial opportunity to stake their claim for Europe.

"We haven't spoken about it, but in your own individual mind you're thinking that," he admitted.

"It's almost a dress rehearsal for Europe. Obviously last year we drew and it's always been a very tough game in Treviso."

The noises coming out of the Leinster camp is that lessons have been learned from last year and the younger players realise the importance of stepping up the mark when they are called upon.

One of the major flaws in last season was that McGrath and his team-mates didn't perform to the standard expected of them during the international windows but he is adamant that they have moved on since then.

"We haven't talked too much about that, we've had two losses but in one of those we got a losing bonus point so I suppose for a young squad that is positive.

"But we still have a really long season ahead of us with a big squad so it's about starting again now.


"Jenno (Shane Jennings) was famous for his work rate and when he was in here last year, obviously the results didn't go his way, but he showed all the lads what it takes and a lot of people have learned a lot off him.

"I know I have anyway. I suppose, just keep going, day to day, train well and see how it goes on match day come the weekend.

"When the guys were away (at the World Cup) we had a lot of young lads but there is a bit of a mix with older guys like Ferg (McFadden) and Isa (Nacewa) and they really stepped up and helped the younger lads with how they approached the game at the start of the season.

"We did have a young squad but we did have a few leaders out there showing us the way and now we've got a lot more leaders coming back so it's only going to benefit the young lads."

Tougher tests than Treviso certainly lie ahead in the coming weeks but, as McGrath himself put it, this Sunday is a 'dress rehearsal' for European action.

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