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McGrath out to put down marker for the big challenges ahead

By Cian Tracey

Jack McGrath has been through enough in his life to know the importance of not sweating the small stuff, but even still, there are times when he feels the need to remind himself of the privileged position that he is in.

Getting picked for the Lions squad was a career highlight but, since last summer's tour, the re-emergence of Cian Healy, coupled with McGrath losing his form, has seen him slip to number two in the pecking order.

It's the kind of selection headache that Joe Schmidt craves as it means he can rotate his looseheads as he sees fit.

"I know that those things help spur players on," the Kiwi maintained.

"If Jack delivers the best he can this weekend then that's a challenge to Cian sitting watching on the bench to come on and add further value.

"It is nice to build that depth of competition because it keeps everyone honest and it adds a kind of resilience to the team if we do pick up an injury."

McGrath is at the stage now where he has to take every chance that he is given and against Italy tomorrow he has an ideal chance to lay down a marker.

Reflecting on his form, he admits that he fell below the standards that he expects of himself in the earlier part of the season.

"I think for a long time I probably worried about stuff that was uncontrollable," he said.

"For me now, when I make a mistake, I just get on with it. You are never going to play the perfect game.

"You want to try and play the best game of your life every time you go out but it doesn't always happen, but what you can do is try and control things to make you try and play the best game, and prepare well.

"Just go into games with a confidence and enjoy it, because people would give their left arm to be where you are and sometimes you forget that.

"When you get away from that, I think, for me, it is difficult.

"I think everyone goes through peaks and troughs. Sometimes it's not to be worrying all of the time because, if you're worrying the whole time, it is mentally draining.

"From my experience of playing at a high level now, I know you don't have to be worrying all of the time. There are certain times when you are able to switch off and certain times when you have to be sharp," said McGrath.

"And when you do that correctly I believe that you come into games and times when you're mentally prepared."

After a gruelling last season, McGrath dismisses the notion that he was mentally fatigued coming back from the Lions tour, but it would be quite understandable if he was.

"No, for me it was physical," the 28-year-old insisted.

"I probably just came back a little bit undercooked, I hadn't played a lot of games."

He added: "I'm feeling good. We can't be complacent if we want to win the Grand Slam."

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