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Fighting spirit is crucial for Irish, insists McGrath

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 09/02/2016

Key weapon: Jack McGrath praised Ireland's character
Key weapon: Jack McGrath praised Ireland's character

Ireland prop Jack McGrath believes his side will need every ounce of the character they showed against Wales if they are to get a result against France on Saturday.

Jonathan Sexton rescued a draw with a late penalty last weekend, in a game Ireland had led 13-0 before allowing Warren Gatland's side 16 unanswered points, and Leinsterman McGrath was caught in two minds at the final whistle.

While relieved to avoid kicking off their Six Nations campaign with a home loss, the 26-times capped loosehead was still sore at letting such a lead slip.

"I'm disappointed with the result," he said. "Being 13-0 up and letting them back into it is something that we are definitely going to have to work on, but then again Wales coming back to lead 16-13… we fought back well.

"We could have gone into our shells but we showed a bit of fighting spirit which is good going over to France. We will need it.

"I'll have to look at the game again but at the moment it is really disappointing.

"Letting them back is not what you want to be doing. I thought our discipline was quite good in parts and then let us down in other parts, so it's a bit of a balancing game that we have to play."

McGrath was busy in defence - his 16 tackles were, along with Jamie Heaslip, the most made by any Irishman - while carrying into the teeth of a committed Welsh defence.

There were, however, issues in the scrum.

While Nathan White struggled against Rob Evans, McGrath had his hands full with a back-to-form Samson Lee and the Welsh scored from a scrum that was twice penalised before Taulupe Faletau broke off the base to score.

The second-half brought an improvement, with set-pieces less frequent after the turn, but McGrath admits there was plenty of food for thought.

"We knew it would be messy and we didn't work the referee well enough either," he said. "It improved a little in the second-half but we will have to look closely at the first-half and see where we went wrong.

"We got on the wrong side of the referee in the scrums in the first-half. I thought we did well to fight back out of a hole, it showed experience and fighting spirit."

McGrath will likely go head to head with Stade's tighthead Rabah Slimani on Saturday at the Stade de France but says his team-mates cannot be too concerned with the new style of play promised by French coach Guy Noves.

Noves has said he will place an emphasis on restoring the Les Bleus flair of old but McGrath wants Ireland to focus.

"We have to focus on our roles and on what we have to do," he added. "We have to be aware of every player. They are an athletic, skilful team and we're going to have to be awake."

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