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McGrath ‘Delighted’ To Get Call-Up To Face Samoa

McGrath ‘Delighted’ To Get Call-Up To Face Samoa

Jack McGrath will follow in the footsteps of fellow Leinster loosehead prop Cian Healy when he makes his senior debut for Ireland against Samoa on Saturday evening.

Cian Healy burst onto the international scene as a 22-year-old, putting in an eye-catching display against Australia in November 2009.

Ireland’s latest GUINNESS Series offers Healy’s provincial colleague and fellow front rower, Jack McGrath, the opportunity to make his senior Test debut – a reward for his steady progress with both Leinster and the Irish representative sides.

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The powerfully-built 24-year-old came up through the ranks of St. Mary’s College in Rathmines and the Leinster Academy, making his mark in the Leinster age-grade sides and winning nine caps in the Ireland Under-20 front row.

He made his Leinster senior debut against Glasgow Warriors in April 2010 and is already closing in on a half century of Leinster caps – a recent 80-minute run-out against Connacht was his 46th appearance for the province.

The 2012/13 season saw McGrath continue his impressive development as he captained the Leinster ‘A’ team which went on to win the British & Irish Cup, lined out in the Amlin Challenge Cup final victory over Stade Francais and appeared three times for the Emerging Ireland side in June’s Tbilisi Cup.

He scored his first Heineken Cup try for Leinster in their home win over Castres Olympique last month, and Joe Schmidt, who worked closely with McGrath at the province, is pleased to see him continue on an upward curve.

“Jack played a lot more than Heinke (van der Merwe) for Leinster last year. He started the Amlin final so there’s a bit of confidence in Jack having faced up to some pretty good challenges in the past. His form has been really good this year,” said the new Ireland head coach, following the announcement of the team to play Samoa.

Saturday’s GUINNESS Series opener against the Samoans at the Aviva Stadium cannot come quick enough for the young Dubliner who will line up in the front row alongside Rory Best and Mike Ross.

“I’m absolutely delighted. It’s a great honour for myself and my family,” said McGrath when asked about getting selected for his first senior international match.

“I heard during the week (that I would be playing) but we were under strict orders to keep it quiet, so that was the deal and we kept to it!

“I quietly told my family on Wednesday evening and I just told them to keep it to themselves. They’d be fairly trustworthy people!”

McGrath agreed that playing regularly in the blue of Leinster has brought on his game and given him a platform to force his way into the Emerging Ireland squad last summer and now Schmidt’s senior set-up.

The 6ft 1in, 19st 2lb prop has already played eight times for Leinster so far this season, with four RaboDirect PRO12 starts and two tries scored against the Ospreys and Castres.

“I think game-time was a massive thing. For myself personally, I need a string of games to just get myself going and keep the fitness up.

“I think a lot of it comes down to injury as well, being a bit lucky with that and just being able to string a few decent performances together…that sort of capped it (for me).”

Although there are big challenges ahead against Australia and New Zealand, all of the Irish squad’s focus this week is on a talented Samoan squad that claimed the scalps of Wales, Scotland and Italy in the last twelve months.

McGrath added: “They’re a very tough side. The spine of their team is from the Top 14 (in France) and the (English) Premiership, and they’re two of the best leagues in the world.

“Personally speaking, Census Johnston is going to be a tough operator (in the scrum) and I’m really looking forward to that challenge.”