WHEN IRELAND’S CALL arrived for Jack McGrath, it did so via email and was a welcome addition to his inbox.
The 24-year-old loosehead, who has made a habit of burrowing over for Leinster tries of late, has been named in Joe Schmidt’s 34-man Ireland squad for the November Series having skipped the queue ahead of Munster’s Dave Kilcoyne.
McGrath made his Leinster debut in 2010 and has played the dutiful role of loosehead back-up for three seasons. 30 of his 45 provincial caps have come as a replacement but his first three appearances of 2013/14 were in the No.1 jersey that Cian Healy has made his own in recent years.
Schmidt boasted loudly of McGrath and Martin Moore being on the brink of regular first-team roles at the end of last season. New coach Matt O’Connor must also like what he sees as the duo, under the Australian, have both featured in the Heineken Cup. McGrath came off the bench to score a crucial try in Leinster’s 17 — 9 win over Castres last Saturday.
“Yeah, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster week all right,” he said. “It was great to get on at the weekend and how we got on was even better. I’m just keeping my head down now, taking it step by step and looking forward to this Connacht game.”
The Leinster team will be announced at noon today and McGrath will be hoping to get the start to lay down a marker ahead of the international break in November. The former St Mary’s forward is sticking to a ‘do your job’ mantra at his province but knows Schmidt, his former coach, will be eyeing improvements since the last time they shared a training field.
“With Joe,” he said, “you never rest on your laurels. He always wants you to improve… You keep looking at your video and trying to find things to improve on.”
McGrath scored a try in a hard-fought 17 — 0 win over Connacht last December but admits Leinster’s 34 — 6 shellacking in Galway rankles within the squad. The word “avenge” was sprinkled throughout the prop’s media briefing.
He added, “Connacht have strengths all over the pitch and I think their pack, especially, is one of them. They pride themselves on their scrum, lineout and work-rate so we can’t take them lightly.”