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Jack McGrath believes his battle with Cian Healy to become Leinster and Ireland’s first-choice loosehead benefits both players and both teams.
McGrath, 26, has started 14 of the last 21 Tests for Ireland but head coach Joe Schmidt has preferred to start with Healy in the big games, including the World Cup matches against France and Argentina.
Both McGrath and Healy signed new three-year contracts with Leinster this week that will tie them to the province until June 2019, but McGrath, the younger man by two years, sees Healy as an example to emulate rather than a threat to his place in the team.
"We both want to be the best two looseheads in the world," he said.
"And he already is [one], so I want to try and get as good as him. I think having the two of us on the same team is good for the team.
"What both of us want is the best for the team. Neither of us are mé féiners [myselfers].
"We do everything for the team, everything for our team-mates, so to have two of us on the team – I play 50 and he plays 30 or vice versa, it doesn’t really matter. We’re building a bond. We’re good buddies. It’s a good place to be. Leinster’s an exciting place to be for the next three years, and so is Ireland."
McGrath hopes to retain the No 1 jersey ahead of the fit-again Healy in Saturday’s Six Nations clash against England at Twickenham.
"It’s the biggest game of the year so far for us…everyone in Ireland would give their left arm to be there or play there, so I find it’s a really emotional day. It’s a great place to play and it’s that bit more special because they are your real rivals," he continued.
"They are a strong pack and they are going to try bully us…it’s going to be a special day. I’m really looking forward to it. I wish we could be playing it this weekend, but we have another week of good prep to come.
Ireland have suffered their worst opening to the Championship since 1998, with just one point from two matches following the 16-16 home draw with Wales on 7 February and the 10-9 defeat to France in Paris six days later.
However, McGrath is confident that Ireland’s misfiring scrum will finally come good against England next week.
"It’s really exciting because we’re not that far away [from winning again] and we know it…the way England play is going to suit how we play and it will be a dinger of a match."