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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 23 January, 2020

'Hopefully no more injuries': McGrath eyes his window of opportunity

The scrum-half starts tomorrow’s Pro14 clash against Edinburgh and knows it’s an important period for him.

Luke McGrath ahead of tomorrow's Pro14 clash with Edinburgh.
Luke McGrath ahead of tomorrow's Pro14 clash with Edinburgh.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

LUKE MCGRATH IS too nice to express anything other than his delight for Jamison Gibson-Park after the Kiwi’s man-of-the-match performance last week, but the scrum-half is aware the competition has just ramped up.

McGrath watched on from the stands last Saturday as Gibson-Park seized his opportunity in the nine jersey against the Dragons, further underlining his credentials in a performance which was embellished by three try assists and a second-half brace of his own.

26-year-old Gibson-Park, who represented the Maori All Blacks, joined Leinster from the Hurricanes as a project player on a three-year contract in May 2016, but has largely been understudy to McGrath at the eastern province in recent seasons.

Initially content to fill the bench role, Gibson-Park is now targeting further game-time this season having started just nine games during Leinster’s double-winning season, and his virtuoso showing demonstrated that he is determined to stake his claim for that starting berth.

McGrath will get his chance to respond in the Guinness Pro14 clash against Edinburgh at the RDS tomorrow evening [KO 7.35pm, eir Sport/Premier Sport] in the knowledge he’ll have to step his game up too.

“I thought he [Gibson-Park] was brilliant, along with all the lads, last week,” the scrum-half said. “I haven’t played since that Scarlets game so it was a fairly disappointing ending. It was good to see the guys go so well and the competition is just raised.

“I’m really looking forward to it tomorrow, just getting back to the RDS as well because I haven’t played there since the Munster game [Pro14 semi-final] last year.”

Luke McGrath McGrath is set for his third appearance of the season on Saturday. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

McGrath endured a stop-start end to last season as knee and ankle injuries meant he battled with fitness, and although he recovered in time to start both the Champions Cup and Pro14 finals, was left out of Ireland’s summer tour of Australia.

But with uncertainty surrounding Conor Murray’s neck injury, the door is likely to open for McGrath, John Cooney or Kieran Marmion in November, with Joe Schmidt’s Ireland playing games against Italy, New Zealand, USA and Argentina. 

“It was a stop-start end to last year so it’s great to be back,” the former St Michael’s College nine continued. “The knee and ankle have healed up well so I’ve no issues now. Hopefully no more injuries for the rest of the year. 

“Obviously there’s a lot of competition heating up but for me it’s just focusing on Leinster and what I can do here. It would be great to be involved somewhat in November but to do that, I need to be playing well here.

“So just take it day by day and obviously it’s a big opportunity tomorrow and then with the inter-pros and Europe, there’s a lot of games coming up. It’s an important part of the season for me.” 

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Ryan Bailey

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