Leinster and Ireland scrum-half Luke McGrath is hoping to put the disappointment of missing out on the Six Nations behind him as he eyes a starting position for this weekend’s game against Italy.
McGrath suffered knee ligament damage prior to the Six Nations, ruling him out of the entire tournament and should he feature against the Italians at the weekend, it would mark his first outing in a green jersey since the November Series last year.
With a Test match upon them, excitement levels have risen in the Irish camp and McGrath is hopeful that he will be involved in their first World Cup warm-up match.
“It was obviously very disappointing to miss the Six Nations and it would be a great opportunity if I get selected to play this weekend. I speak on behalf of the whole squad, everyone wants to play in the first game. It’s exciting times.”
Given his unfortunate run with injuries, the 26-year-old would be forgiven if he had lingering worries in the back of his mind going into a competitive game against such a physical side but the scrum-half insists that Ireland will be holding nothing back against Conor O’Shea’s side.
“It’s a Test match so I think everyone will be going in 100%, they definitely will, in fact. Obviously, injuries do happen and we were talking about it there, only 31 can go but there will be people that will be flown out throughout the campaign as well so everyone has to be ready.
“But I think everyone is really looking forward to getting into rugby like we said, we’ve done all the physical training and lads are just looking to go in 100%.”
The scrum-half position has become a competitive one with McGrath fighting with John Cooney and Kieran Marmion for a place on the plane to Japan alongside the experienced Conor Murray.
Given that Saturday’s game will most likely be the last chance to impress Joe Schmidt before he chooses his official 31-man squad for the World Cup, McGrath has set himself targets to reach should he be involved, however, he acknowledges that mistakes are to be expected in the first competitive international of the season.
“Just put my hand up. I suppose in attack, keep the game flowing, keep pace on the ball. In defence, just slot into the line when I need to, good kicking game, not just be solid but you’ve got to show what you can do.
“Be versatile if you’re in different positions, different scenarios, just keep a calm head. It is our first game of the season as well, so there will be mistakes It’s important, that a collective, we just stick to the game plan and hopefully, that will be good enough.
“You set yourself little goals going into the game. It’s just depending on how you perform to that. But, it’s a huge opportunity but it’s also the first game of the season so you have to be patient as well and we’ve spoken about that as a team.”