Monday 18 December 2017

Master McGrath is out on his own

The Irish scrum has to drive on

Jack McGrath relaxes at Carton House ahead of this evening’s clash with England. Photo: Sportsfile
Jack McGrath relaxes at Carton House ahead of this evening’s clash with England. Photo: Sportsfile
Jack McGrath tackling Jefferson Poirot of France during the Six Nations match in Paris. Photo: Sportsfile

There was a time, not so long ago, when Jack McGrath would be met with a familiar greeting on the streets of Dublin.

"How's it goin' Cian?"

That's right. The Leinster and Ireland loose-head has often been mistaken for Cian Healy.

It didn't take long before amusement turned to irritation.

"I would take it massively personally, yeah, but, sure if you punched everyone who said that to you, then you'd be in serious trouble," he laughed.

"But, sure, they probably don't know the game as well as others would, so you can understand that in a way.

"It's not happening as much now, so that's probably a bit nicer" he said.

"I don't know, I suppose just the more exposure you get of playing a little bit more then people are going to recognise you. It's probably down to that."


There you have it. While the misfortune of injury has taken hold of Healy's foot, knee and neck, McGrath has been played up to and beyond the limits of international rugby.

It was noticeable how the Irish management laid out the demands for McGrath of playing two Six Nations matches in the space of six days against Wales and France.

More tellingly, McGrath topped the tackle chart against Wales with 18 in 80 minutes and was third on the list against France with 15 in 76 minutes on a day when there were 20 scrums.

The simple fact Healy was not there for Wales and France meant the burden of responsibility increased with no room to take a breather during the game.

"(You) just go full balls every time. It's the way you have to do international rugby. You have to give it your all every time," he said.

"You can't wait to get into. It's just so quick, you'll get left behind.

"The way we want to play, the tempo we want to play at and the tempo England have started playing at, we're going to have to be up to speed straight away and into them from the first minute."

McGrath knows what it is like to dig as deep as the trenches he was battling in with the unwanted reward of one point from two rounds.

"We're not far away from our first win," he said.

"The overriding thing was probably disappointment because we had come so close in both games. That's really what we're going to be concentrating on.

"It's just being a little bit more clinical, a little bit more disciplined and being a little bit smarter in areas of the pitch."

It won't get any easier against England this evening, although his 'old mucker' Healy will be chomping to get into the game.

"Psychologically, it definitely does help," he admitted.

"You know a top-quality guy is going to come on so you can give 50 or 60 minutes and go for it."

Ireland will need to be more "streetwise" in the scrum than they were against Wales and late on against France.

"I wouldn't say we're bracing ourselves for it because that's as if we're not prepared for it, or we're just going to be waiting for it," said McGrath.

"For us, we want to go over there and meet them head on, especially in Twickenham because it's such a cauldron and that's where they see their strong point.

"We need to try and take that away from them."

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