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Thursday 15 November 2018

McGrath targets Munster

Sexton, Ryan, Kearney and Ringrose to return for Blues

COMEBACK TRAIL: Jack McGrath with contact skills coach Hugh Hogan during Leinster training. Photo: Sportsfile
COMEBACK TRAIL: Jack McGrath with contact skills coach Hugh Hogan during Leinster training. Photo: Sportsfile

The early signs are that Stuart Lancaster's problem will not become Joe Schmidt's problem.

Leinster's Jack McGrath has been ruled out for an unspecified number of weeks with a knee injury suffered at training.

All the indications are that it does not look like threatening the opening rounds of the European Cup or Ireland's November internationals.

In fact, McGrath will work towards a return to play at home to Munster in the Guinness PRO14 League at The Aviva Stadium on October 6.

There are worse times during the season to be afflicted - much worse.

"It is a shame for Jack because he obviously worked really hard to get into the Ireland team at the end of the tour," noted Lancaster.

"He's worked hard on his fitness and his change-up that we've been talking about. It's only a couple of weeks, but yeah it has just been frustrating for him really.

"But I think when you look at who is in our red box of injured players we're actually not in bad shape at the moment.

"The good thing is that we can bring some pretty good players back in the equation this weekend."

As compensation, Leinster will have Jonathan Sexton, Garry Ringrose, James Ryan, Rob Kearney and Josh van der Flier to draw on as Bernard Jackman's Dragons enter The RDS den this Saturday evening (KO5.15).

The week will have to play out before Leinster make a call on whether one or all will be rolled out for the first home match of the season.

Whatever the make-up, former Leinster hooker Jackman can expect a torrid time.

The Leinster Monday morning review has been a 'no excuse zone' for years.

The loss at Scarlets was interpreted as a win that got away.

"I go hard on them because I think it's about winning," said Lancaster.

"Having gone through the pain of losing, and not just the two semi-finals at Leinster, but being an international coach, you still learn that the pain of losing is not worth it really.

Theory

"Our mindset should be to go out and try and win every game," he pushed.

This is all fine and dandy, in theory. It is just that there are always two sides to every league argument.

The pain referenced by defeats the season before last pale in comparison to those two hammer blows administered by Leinster to Scarlets at the Aviva Stadium last season.

In addition, the reality is there has to be a price paid for the often applauded Irish system.

"The reality is we've got players who are coming back in from international duty," Lancaster said. "We've got Europe coming around the corner and trophies are won at the end of the season."

In terms of the week-by-week process, Leo Cullen and Lancaster learned long ago that it is far better to start as you mean to proceed.

"You need to be in a position to win the trophies," he stated.

"In a conference system, you need to either win your conference or come second.

"What counts really is not just winning all your games, but particularly against the teams that are in your conference."

This clarifies the cost of the points against Conference rivals and likely contenders Scarlets.

However, the fact remains that Leinster are one point ahead of the West Wales club after two matches away from home.

Not bad. If not quite good enough.

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