'Nugget found it straight away': Leinster ready for bump from fired-up front rows

Leinster have a loosehead and a hooker eager to prove a point before the Six Nations rolls around.

THE NOVEMBER INTERNATIONALS are in the books and provinces will welcome the trickle of players back into their ranks this week.

Some will get back to Pr014 duty with renewed confidence having tasted the big stage, others will need a minute to refocus for the slightly dimmer lights.

And then there’s another handful of players who have a right to feel sore after missing out on the Carton House camp.

Last Friday night against the Dragons, Sean Cronin played 48 minutes at a ferocious intensity that looked better-suited to eight Test match minutes. With Rob Herring and James Tracy preferred by Joe Schmidt this month, Cronin had a point to prove and he made it relentlessly.

“It creates an edge, certainly in their minds,” says Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty, who will benefit from the current turbo-charged version of Cronin.

“Sean has been excellent, unbelievably good over the last couple of weeks. He showed an initial bit of disappointment not to be in that camp, but Christ he’s worked really hard to improve every part of his game.

“You can see him doing extra bits after sessions. He’s showing that edge midweek which is where you want players to be showing it. I think Jack is going to follow the same route.”

Jack McGrath’s case is not as clear-cut as Cronin’s. The loosehead was involved and played a part for Ireland during November. But in an uber-competitive position, the form of Cian Healy and Dave Kilcoyne turned McGrath from dominating the number 1 jersey to picking up the scraps of minutes that were left over.

Jack McGrath with Simon Easterby Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

“He certainly is disappointed that he has not had more time for Ireland,” Fogarty says of McGrath.

“I think it says more about that group of looseheads and what they are doing. I certainly don’t think Jack is in a big slump.

“He’s not going to be head-down and wondering where he needs to go. He will be very clear physically, the S&C side, and rugby-wise where he needs to go before the Six Nations. And he will work towards that. There are big games over the next few weeks for us.

“It’ll take this week for those guys to decompress from camp,” says Fogarty, before adding the valid point that opportunities for elite level players to properly step away and rest are few and far between.

Jack McGrath dejected after the game Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“I’ve no experience of what it’s like to go from a season into an off-season with a tour or a Lions series and (then go) into another season.

“They’re mentally right up here,” says Fogarty with those instructive hands raised above head height.

“Sometimes there are little dips that happen in form and, whether that’s a mental thing that you can see in their game or whatever, that does happen to those guys.

“Particularly guys like Jack, the last four years he’s been one of the top performers, there are little dips, but then they find it very quickly.”

And whatever ‘it’ is, ’tis a powerful fuel for the fire.

“Nugget found it straight away. I know a guy like Jack is going to use all the emotion in that disappointment, use it in the right way to sharpen. Those guys are going to work very, very hard toward the Six Nations.”

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