Jack McGrath believes Ireland’s scrum has no choice but to face England’s heavyweight pack head on at Twickenham today and is relishing the prospect of a front row battle royale.
The Irish set-piece has come under serious pressure in the first two games of this RBS 6 Nations campaign, with both Wales and France scoring their only tries off that platform following sequences of concerted scrummaging dominance.
France’s angular scrummaging from props Eddy Ben Arous and Rabah Slimani in Paris two weeks ago and Jaco Peyper’s officiating of it left Ireland seething but loosehead prop McGrath believes a fairer contest is on the cards against England although it is up to the Irish front row not to leave themselves open to misinterpretation by referee Romain Poite this evening.
“We’re trying to scrummage straight and legal and do everything we can,” McGrath said.
“So if it’s interpreted the wrong way it’s our issue and we have to take the referee and the touch judges out of it and sort it out, basically, on the pitch.
“It hasn’t gone great in the first two games. I think it will be a little bit different this time because England actually want to scrummage properly.
Despite their difficulties at scrum-time, Ireland cannot afford to fear the English pack, McGrath said, adding that being more adaptable to different scrummaging styles was essential.
“I wouldn’t say we’re bracing ourselves for it because that’s as if we’re not prepared for it or we’re going to be waiting for it,” he said of the English scrum.
“For us, we want to go over there and meet them head on and have a good ding-dong battle.
"You have to meet them head on, especially in Twickenham because it’s such a cauldron and that’s where they see their strong point. That’s why we need to try and take that away from them.
“But you have to be streetwise as well,” he said, before adding that had not been the case in the first two rounds.
“You’ve seen the results and you’ve seen what’s happened at the scrum... we just need to continue what we’re doing and tweak a few things and just maybe do our homework a little bit better on sides.
“We aren’t that far away and it’s just being a little bit more clinical, a little bit more disciplined and being a little bit smarter.”
Having the experience of fellow loosehead Cian Healy returned to the matchday squad as well as starting tighthead Mike Ross, who relieves Nathan White after a torrid opening couple of matches, is definite boost for Ireland heading to Twickenham. McGrath welcomed the return of his selection rival Healy, tasked with finishing the job he will have to start at full throttle.
“You know a top-quality guy is going to come on so you can give 50 or 60 minutes and go for it,” he said of their tag-team partnership. “Psychologically it definitely does help. Just go full balls every time.
"It’s the way you have to do international rugby. You have to give it your all every time. You can’t wait to get into it because it’s just so quick and you’ll get left behind.
"The way we want to play, the tempo we want to play at and the tempo England have started playing at, we’re going to have to be up to speed straight away and into them from the first minute.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved