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Ulster hoping to push through deal to sign Jack McGrath from Leinster

The Ireland international is understood to have initiated the discussions over a possible move.

ULSTER ARE HOPEFUL of securing the signing of Ireland international Jack McGrath from Leinster ahead of next season.

As first reported by the Irish Independent, the loosehead prop is in talks with the IRFU and Ulster about a possible move this summer.

Although The42 understands that a contract has not yet been signed and sealed, Leinster could lose another of their homegrown players to a rival province.

Jack McGrath 15/10/2018 McGrath has 54 caps for Ireland, as well as three for the Lions. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Last summer saw Joey Carbery depart for Munster as Jordi Murphy moved to Ulster. Scrum-half Nick McCarthy will join Munster at the end of the current season, while McGrath could now make the move to Ulster after the World Cup.

It’s understood that McGrath himself initiated the discussions about a possible move, having become frustrated at a lack of starts with Leinster.

The 29-year-old has fallen firmly behind the resurgent Cian Healy in the pecking order at Leinster, starting just two Champions Cup games last season as the province enjoyed trophy success.

2017 Lions tourist McGrath has been hampered by knee and hip injuries this season and has only had one start in Leinster’s six Champions Cup pool games, as well as a further five in the Pro14.

The loosehead, previously a regular under Joe Schmidt, was not included in Ireland’s matchday squad for their opening two games of the current Six Nations, with Munster’s Dave Kilcoyne pushing ahead of him to provide back-up to Healy on the bench.

McGrath did win his 54th Test cap off the bench last weekend against Italy but, having been first-choice ahead of Healy for province and country as recently as the 2016/17 season, the picture has changed.

It’s understood that McGrath, who is on a central IRFU contract, initiated the conversation about a possible move, with the union willingly facilitating the discussions with Ulster.

The northern province have declined to comment on the possibility of McGrath moving north this summer, but it’s believed they are hopeful of getting a deal over the line.

Leinster also have some hope that McGrath will decide to stay and back himself to rediscover his best form in order to apply major pressure on Healy for the number one shirt.

If Leinster were to lose McGrath, the eastern province would look to Ed Byrne – who is having an excellent season – and Peter Dooley to step up.

The form of Byrne, who spent 28 months on the sidelines with knee injuries from 2014 through to 2017, has been particularly encouraging for Leinster, whose coaching staff have challenged McGrath to push back to levels of performance that helped him to make three Test appearances for the Lions on the 2017 tour of New Zealand.

For Ulster, securing McGrath ahead of next season would be another major boost in their rebuilding process under Dan McFarland.

They have already signed experienced Wallabies and Brumbies lock Sam Carter, while Irish-qualified loosehead prop Gareth Milasinovich will join from Worcester.

It is expected that the northern province will confirm the signing of versatile Kiwi back Matt Faddes from the Highlanders ahead of next season. 

With academy players Eric O’Sullivan, Michael Lowry and James Hume set to move onto senior squad contracts next season too, there is excitement within Ulster about the future.

Bernard Jackman joins Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey to discuss the backlash to World Rugby’s league proposal, captaincy styles, sports psychology and more in The42 Rugby Weekly.


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Murray Kinsella

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