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19th Jan 2019

“It makes it look like you’re bollocksed tired” – Jack McGrath relieved to be himself again

Patrick McCarry

Jack McGrath

From February 2016 to March 2017, Jack McGrath started 15 Tests and was afforded a rest against Italy in the 2017 Six Nations.

Around the same time, for Leinster, he started 18 times and was a sub on seven occasions. For province and country, the loosehead was first choice. The number one No.1 in blue and green.

He went to New Zealand with the British & Irish Lions and tipped along nicely but without ever looking to seriously challenge Mako Vunipola. He still played his part in a Test Series draw with the All Blacks. His aim upon returning home, after a well-earned rest, was to re-establish himself as first-choice with Leinster and Ireland.

There have been some huge highs since that 2017 summer tour but McGrath has never quite asserted the same dominance as a guaranteed starter. The undoubted form of Cian Healy has been key, here, but McGrath struggled for a long time to shake a niggling injury.

During a feature interview on Baz & Andrew’s House of Rugby [from 28:00 below], McGrath told Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble about that injury and how he feels his best days are still ahead.

On Sunday, against Wasps, McGrath gets to start only his fifth game of the season [fourth for Leinster and he began in the Ireland win over Italy at Soldier Field]. Healy has been the top dog, starting for Ireland in the wins over Argentina and New Zealand, while Ed Byrne has 12 Leinster appearances [three starts] in the position this season.

“Cian [Healy] is an absolute athlete,” says McGrath.

“Cian was very unlucky with a few bad knocks in a row, which would have stopped most people. But, in fairness to him, he’s fought back and it just shows how much of a fighter he is. It’s incredible.

“I think we push each other on as well. It has always been the case. In any interview I do, he comes up – about myself and him. He’s playing exceptionally well at the moment and he deserves all the plaudits that he’s getting, and he deserves to be where he is.”

“We are two different players,” McGrath adds, “and I don’t try to do what he does because I can’t do what he does. I just y to do what I can do, really well and it has worked for me in the past. Try to do it better every time.”

McGrath feels his leg injury, which affected him for over a year, did not help his cause.

“The way last season went, I didn’t want to miss any of it – with the trophies and stuff like that. The [knee] surgery came at the right time and now I feel like I’m back to my best.

“The [knee issues] probably started after the Lions. I would have been carrying a bit and it would have got gradually worse.” He added:

“It was just hindering me. Definitely around the pitch with speed-to-feet off the floor and even with small stuff like height for scrummaging and clearing out rucks, carries and stuff like that.

“You’re trying to get up and you’re that little bit slower and it makes it look like you’re bollocksed tired, rather than me just trying to get up on my other [good] leg. It was one of those things. Everyone goes through it so you just have to grin and bear it. But it got to a point where we just said it’s about time to get it fixed.”

Five weeks out after that surgery to clean out his knee. He was due back on the training pitch for December 27 – ahead of the Munster – but he was held off playing until January 5. He came through that win over Ulster but sat out the Toulouse game before coming back into the fold for Wasps.

McGrath is determined to make up for lost time, and to show all those that helped him on his rehab that he was worth the effort.


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