Prop Jack McGrath believes Ireland have learned their lessons from last November’s 32-15 defeat to Australia as they seek revenge against the Wallabies in Saturday’s final GUINNESS Series Test.
Jack McGrath was a second half replacement in that four-try loss at the Aviva Stadium twelve months ago, just a week on from winning the man-of-the-match award on his debut against Samoa.
The 25-year-old has since played nine more times for Ireland, including starts against Argentina and South Africa, and with Cian Healy sidelined through injury he has taken the opportunity to impress for both province and country in the number 1 jersey.
Recalling last year’s clash with Australia, McGrath said: “That was the second match for Joe (Schmidt and), second cap for me and it brought me back down to earth after a good start to my international campaign (against Samoa).
“But we learnt a lot from last year. We’re doing a lot of work over the last few weeks on the Australians because they are very dangerous when they get going.
“We’ve looked back, you have to look back. There are a lot of similar players. Most of the squad that came last year was here.
“Obviously there’s a lot of similar players. Obviously for myself, Sekope Kepu, at tighthead, is a guy who is going to be playing. Ben Alexander as well. Definitely, we have been looking back to look forward.”
McGrath was just coming into the Leinster squad as a developing prop when Michael Cheika, the current Australian head coach, was leaving these shores in 2010 after coaching the province for five years.
Despite knowing him briefly, the young front rower believes the ‘stern operator’ will give Australia a ‘hard-nosed edge’ which will make them a better team.
McGrath is analysing the Wallabies pack thoroughly and his senior role at Leinster has given him added confidence going into Irish camp.
“There is a lot of video work but you do have to adapt your scrum as well. The way the game has gone, every opponent, there is so much video analysis now that they can change their set-up or what they are going to be doing. You have to be aware for that.
“You do have to sometimes change it up because if you do the same thing every time you are going to be found out.
“When you play a bit more in the senior role in Leinster, you have confidence when you come into the Irish squad. There is the leadership group here so you don’t want to be saying too much because they all have it down to a ‘t’, what they are saying. You just get on with your own job.
“There is definitely a confidence there. Any game we are playing you want to back up a good performance and we’ve built two good performances now (this month) and it’s time to step up another level.”
While the hard-hitting scrum work in training is limited, the set piece issues against South Africa were put behind them with a solid outing for the pack against Georgia.
“You definitely have to do a good amount (of scrummaging in training) to get a good hit. Obviously some of the guys were a bit stiff from Sunday, but we did a bit today (Tuesday) and it went well. There were a few things we needed to tweak because we did struggle against South Africa.”
One key figure has been regular tighthead Mike Ross who came in to face the Springboks having not played for the previous month due to a groin problem. For McGrath, he feels there is little difference between starting or coming off the bench.
“Mike is just a great professional. To be able to do that is pretty good. Out for 30 days and being able to play 74 minutes against South Africa is good going and then put in a good 50-minute shift against Georgia. Maybe as you get older, you get a bit wiser and he’s proved that point,” he said.
“You just have to get used to starting. It is great to have the opportunity to start but you probably have to get your wind a little bit quicker when you are coming off the bench as opposed to starting. For me that’s the only change because the same amount of work goes into if you are starting or subbing (in terms of) video analysis or visualisation.”