Luke McGrath: ‘It’s nice to be back in the mix’

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Leinster scrum-half Luke McGrath returned to the Ireland setup last month for the first time since March 2020 after teammate and fellow number nine Jamison Gibson-Park suffered a thigh injury.

The 28-year-old joined up with the boys in green ahead of their final game of the Autumn Nations Series.

Gibson-Park had orchestrated the Ireland attack alongside Johnny Sexton in victories over Japan and New Zealand before being ruled out.

McGrath did not get back onto the pitch in green but noted that the time he spent with the squad was valuable.

“It was great,” McGrath exclaimed. “It’s obviously been a long time since I was in but it was nice to go in after they beat New Zealand, you know, they were in great spirits.

“To be there for the rest of the Argentina week was great, even to be an extra just on game day kinda – you know, there was a while where I was very far away from that so it’s nice to be back in the mix and, like I say, hopefully, I’ll be able to get a couple odd more Irish caps in the future.

“But the only way I can do that is by playing well with Leinster, so that’s kinda where my focus is at the minute but it was a great experience.”

McGrath has appeared five times for Leinster this season, with four starts to his name and captained the side in their interprovincial clash with Ulster.

Their rivals got the upper hand on them at the RDS on the day as Dan McFarland’s men registered their first win over the boys in blue since April 2019.

Leinster were dominated for the majority of the game and were unable to deal with their linespeed and quality in the breakdown.

Ulster manipulated space against the Pro 14 champions really well, especially at the start of the game.

McGrath’s opposite number, John Cooney called three-man pods often to bring Leinster’s concentration towards the ball and not the wide men, leading to some enticing chances when the number nine chose to go down that avenue.

Connacht star Jack Carty is known to use space to his advantage and has thrived this season with Mack Hansen and him forming a dynamic duo.

Hansen has started life in the West of Ireland like a house on fire and his energy and speed caused lots of problems for the Ospreys defence last week at the Sportsground.

“We did watch a bit of the Ospreys game [Monday] morning and Jack used his kicking game really well.

“You know, Ulster, like you say, were very effective against us around the ruck, they tightened us up very well and, like you say, took the edges so maybe Connacht might use a bit more of that template this week – again, it’s kind of hard to know.

“But, like you say, Jack’s playing really well at the minute. His kicking game is so effective – it was definitely very effective against us in the RDS last year when they beat us.

“Connacht have a load of threats – Hansen’s playing really well as well so, you know, it’s gonna be a massive defensive effort from us but, yeah look, we’re really looking forward to the challenge.”

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