Jack McGrath hoping to exorcise French 'demons'
Bustling prop Jack McGrath is eagerly awaiting the chance for redemption against France when the sides clash in a mouthwatering game at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday.
It may be Valentine's Day but McGrath doesn't intend on sharing the love with Les Blues after enduring a tough final period in last year's Paris fixture where Ireland narrowly hung on for a famous 22-20 victory.
Only 12 months ago the Leinster man, along with current internationals Sean Cronin and Marty Moore were playing against Newport Gwent Dragons, and he feels the trio still have a lot to prove after their Parisian troubles.
He said: "It's great to be back but it was Sean, Marty and myself who were on the pitch at the end of the French match when the scrum was turned so I think there's a few demons to right. We need to be fully concentrated this weekend."
McGrath was relatively happy with his performance in the opening weekend win in Rome but believes there is room for improvement in the French game this weekend.
He said: "It was mixed emotions. On one hand the win was great but I was disappointed with the two scrum penalties that went against me. I'll take that with me this weekend and try to rectify it."
McGrath is delighted to have the inspirational Cian Healy back in the squad and having felt his presence in training this week he believes it can only benefit his own personal display.
"I had an idea he might be selected for the squad earlier in the week when he was rolling in and out with me in training and it's great to have a top quality player like him back in," McGrath said.
"He's the type of guy who's going to raise my game and the team's performance with his ball carrying ability and his excitement around the pitch."
The outstanding French mauling last weekend in their 15-8 against Scotland has not gone unnoticed by head coach Joe Schmidt and McGrath says there are plans in place to counteract their power.
"We have a few things in place to counteract the maul. We've been concentrating a bit on them but it's also important that we concentrate on ourselves," he said.
"We know how dangerous they are, especially when they are on the back foot. They mightn't have played that well but they have free reign coming away from home and I think that's when they are at their most dangerous."
The 25-year-old believes the fitness of the Irish pack could be key to their success and insists that they must be 'clever' on the ball both in the pack and further afield.
He said: "We're never going to be able to compete with them for size because they're massive men but for us we need to be fitter and a little smarter in how we combat their size.
"If you're running into big men all day it's like running into brick walls so you have to outwork them."
On French battering ram Mathieu Bastereaud he believes the key to dominance is for the Irish side to work efficiently together tackling early and hard.
"He's one of their main ball carriers and he's very dangerous. We need to get in close to him and tackle his ankles early," McGrath said.
"If he builds up a head of steam we're in trouble so must cut off that threat quickly. "