Belfast Telegraph

Rising star McGrath is hoping for a chance to make his big Ireland breakthrough

By David Kelly

There's no point in getting a break if you don't make one yourself.

Now 24, nobody is able to help Luke McGrath more than Luke McGrath. And how. Sport stats rarely tell the entire story but they can illustrate it.

Of all the players who have made line-breaks in the Guinness PRO12 this term, there are quite a few who have done so more times than the Leinster man and indeed one of their significant number - 19 in all - is a team-mate, Rory O'Loughlin.

In the general scheme of things, being 20th in a list of line-breakers shouldn't seem like much of a big deal but if you take a second look, his status is worthy of a little more credit.

That's because of the 19 players ahead of him - led by Ulster's irrepressible Charles Piutau - all are outside backs.

McGrath is the only non-three-quarter in the list; he is also just two behind the leading try-scorer this season, Munster wing Ronan O'Mahony, with seven.

It is fair to say this scrum-half, whose primary roles are nominally to harry his grunting pack and proffer silver-salver service to his gilded backs, has been literally taking matters into his own hands.

McGrath followed a November debut with Ireland with a significant Six Nations bow as a nerveless replacement against England in the spring.

Winning silverware is the immediate priority but, with a summer tour to lesser spotted destinations in the offing, a challenge to become the pre-eminent back-up to Conor Murray also heaves into view.

"It's been an incredible season so far," said Leinster's Players' Player of the Year. "But there's still a lot to play for. There's been a lot of learning through the year as well, but I've enjoyed every minute.

"I've got a lot more game-time than I did last year, and I think that's why I'm enjoying it."

He is duly sprinting into prime position now to challenge Kieran Marmion on the summer tour; the scrum-half pecking order will be instructive.

"It's going to be a massive opportunity for a lot of younger guys. If I was lucky to be there, it's almost like starting a small season again," he said.

"It's my first tour away with the Irish senior squad so I'd be very excited for it, absolutely.

"With Conor away, it is a big opportunity for the scrum-halves who go because Conor's been No.1 for the last while.

"It would be a massive opportunity for more game time at that level. I haven't had as much experience," he added.

"There was 15 minutes against Canada and the same against England. The one big learning I took was the smallest details have the biggest consequences.

"It is getting up to that level but that can only happen with games and hopefully I can get more of them in the near future."

His biggest break may be yet to come.

Belfast Telegraph

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