Belfast Telegraph

McGrath aims to end stunning campaign with a final flourish

 

By Cian Tracey

Twenty-five appearances for club and country later, 1,023 minutes, a Grand Slam and a Champions Cup medal secured, and yet Jack McGrath's insatiable desire for success shows no signs of abating in the season that keeps on giving.

There have been other campaigns in which McGrath has clocked up more game-time, purely because he was both Leinster and Ireland's first-choice loosehead, but even still, he has played a major role this season.

His battle with Cian Healy has been one of the most fascinating in Irish rugby over the last few years as both players continue to bring the best out of each other.

McGrath, however, will be hoping that he has done enough to earn a starting berth in Saturday's Guinness PRO14 final.

There is plenty of logic in starting with McGrath at the Aviva Stadium.

Healy has rediscovered his best form and has gotten through a mountain of work this season, so from that end, Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster may opt for the fresher man.

McGrath got the nod against Munster and did well, before Healy came off the bench to devastating effect, along with his fellow front-row replacements.

Regardless of what happens on Saturday, this season has been a success for Leinster, but try telling that to the players and they won't fully buy it.

This squad is on the verge of writing themselves into the history books by winning the double, and for them that is all that matters.

The Champions Cup success is already a distant memory, which was summed up by the manner in which Leinster dispatched Munster last Saturday.

Europe has been parked for now and, given that it has been four years since they were last PRO14 champions, their sights are firmly set on adding even more silverware to the collection.

"Obviously it's in the back of your head, but it's not the driving factor, because we haven't won the league since 2014, so it's been a barren old spell," McGrath insisted.

"We've topped the league and not gotten anything from it. Guys are taking it as a different competition. We're playing for those 55 guys who got us to this point.

"To get over last weekend was huge for us, with the changes that we had, the guys we were missing."

Last weekend, McGrath's sumptuous inside pass for James Lowe to set up Jack Conan's try was outstanding, and perhaps deserved more praise than it actually got.

"It was just kinda off the cuff," the 28-year-old said. "That is the way we are trying to play now, unstructured (but) comfortable."

While the Scarlets will attempt to use the hurt of last month's semi-final defeat to their benefit, McGrath is fuelled by an altogether different pain.

"I am around long enough to remember when we won a Heineken Cup (in 2011) and then going to a final and not being able to get over the line, so there is that experience and bit of bitterness," he added.

"A lot of great guys have walked through that door at Leinster and not done that, so that is definitely a driving factor."

Leinster vs Scarlets

Guinness PRO14 Championship Grand Final

Aviva Stadium, Saturday, 6.00pm

Belfast Telegraph

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