McGrath fights for Ireland spot while Ruddock and Leavy have injury frustrations

Leinster’s loosehead has had to watch on as Dave Kilcoyne has moved up the pecking order.

AS EVER, THE Six Nations has seen a raft of Leinster players heavily involved but there have been frustrations for others so far in this championship.

Rhys Ruddock is the latest man to be ruled out through injury – a hamstring issue he sustained in training last week meaning he is now sidelined – while his fellow back row Dan Leavy remains short of full fitness.

Dan Leavy Dan Leavy last played on 22 December against Connacht. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Jack McGrath, meanwhile, has had to cope with losing his place in Ireland’s matchday 23 to Munster’s in-form loosehead Dave Kilcoyne.

Ruddock was due to get game time for Leinster last Saturday against Zebre, teeing himself up for possible involvement for Ireland against Italy this weekend, but will now have to deal with the frustration of picking up a hamstring issue.

“I don’t think it’s something that’s going to be a number of weeks,” said Leinster assistant coach John Fogarty yesterday. “It was quite minor, he was back and was preparing to play for us and he picked up something quite minor in his hamstring.

“So it’s frustrating for him, he’s now at this stage trying to get himself right and we’ll give him the time he needs. He wants to put together performances, he wants to push… not being able to do that and being in rehab isn’t where he wants to be, but he’ll get himself back.”

Leavy’s ongoing calf complaint – which has kept him out since before Christmas – is something of a mystery, with Leinster unwilling to put a timeline on when he is expected back.

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt had hoped that Leavy would come into the Ireland mix during this Six Nations but with the openside flanker unavailable for Leinster again this Friday against the Kings, that seems increasingly unlikely.

“I’m hearing that he is making good progress,” said Fogarty of Leavy, who helped Ireland to their Grand Slam last year. “That’s about all. He needs to get physically better in certain parts and they [Leinster's S&C staff] are busy with him at the moment.

“He’s focusing massively on getting himself back. Initially, when there is an injury at this time of year, there is a disappointment part. Now he has consumed himself with getting his body right so that he can stay fit when he comes back.

“That’s what he is doing at the moment, I think the frustration part is gone. He’s now immersed in all he needs to do to get himself physically right so that he can be back and stay back. There’s a lot of rugby to be played.”

Jack McGrath Loosehead prop Jack McGrath has missed out on playing in the Six Nations so far. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Loosehead prop McGrath is fit and available for Leinster – he started in last weekend’s win over Zebre – but the 29-year-old has had to deal with the frustration of watching Kilcoyne move above him in Ireland’s pecking order.

With Cian Healy the clear first-choice, McGrath is concentrating on getting back to his best. 

“I think he’s clear in his head what he has to do,” said Fogarty. “That’s the first point. Sometimes we bring players back, medically get them back really, really well but fitness levels probably haven’t been achieved.

“Jack was medically really good to come back and play but probably wasn’t at the top of his physical level part. I think that’s what his focus is now – to get himself really, really good.

“In terms of leadership in the squad for us and what he can do at the set-piece, we’re  happy with the way he is moving along and he’s working very, very hard with S&C team to get himself physically good.

“He needs to focus on himself, focus on developing 80 minutes of play, develop his performance, getting his edge in here.

“I don’t think he needs to be distracted by who is first, who is second, where he is sitting  – he just needs to get on with what he’s getting on with. That’s what we are helping him out with here.”

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