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Wednesday 26 April 2017

Jack respects Saint Hartley

Leinster and Ireland prop Jack McGrath. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Leinster and Ireland prop Jack McGrath. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

It wasn't that long ago no one could see Cian Healy being displaced at Ireland, never mind Leinster. Then along came Jack McGrath.

It wasn't that long ago Dylan Hartley was seen as an unreformable rugby character.

Then along came Eddie Jones.

Now that the excitement of the Autumn internationals has subsided, Hartley and McGrath look likely to be literally brothers in each others' arms when the British and Irish Lions are called forward after the Six Nations.

The basis for McGrath's advance in the international game has been his discipline and dedication.

The Irish loose-head is willing to move beyond the 'three strikes and you're out' rule of law which could be applied to Hartley's indiscretions.

"Some people are a bit mad when they are younger and he seems to have grown out of it," said McGrath.

"He's shown that he can eradicate that from his game.

"It's been really good for him because he has had a successful time since he's done that."

The list of Hartley's indiscretions on the field are almost a mirror of Eddie Jones' off the field.

They appear to be a perfect match for England.

"I haven't played against him a whole lot, but to watch him play, he doesn't take a step backwards," acknowledged McGrath.

leads

"He leads from the front and guys follow and that's the type of guy you want on your team.

"I have a lot of respect for him," he added.

"He has come back from whatever troubles he had and completely forgot about it.

"You can only give a guy respect for that and he is a quality player as well."

The Ireland-England argument will be settled in just over three months.

At present, Leinster will have all eyes focused on Northampton in The Champions Cup on Friday night in the first leg of their back-to-back matches before Christmas.

McGrath doesn't expect a lot to have changed since Leinster's last visit there in December 2013.

"You have to be strong in the contact area and take them on in scrum and maul," said McGrath.

"We have the quality of players in our pack to be able to do that. But it is about having the right mindset going over and trying to get stuck into them, especially at home, because their crowd can get on top of you."

Franklin's Gardens is one of the most atmospheric grounds in England, heaven on earth when you are going well, hell on grass when you're not.

"It's a really intimidating place and it was tough to go over there," he said, about the remarkable 40-7 victory three years ago.

Hartley and friends will be waiting for redemption.

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