In move that shocks absolutely nobody, Jack McGrath is the latest Leinsterman to move up the A1 to Belfast.
He is Ulster’s third confirmed signing ahead of next season after Brumbies’ Sam Carter and Worcester’s Gareth Milasinovich were announced earlier in the season. No contract length was disclosed in the official statement.
McGrath brings a wealth of experience to a young Ulster side, with 142 Leinster appearances and 54 Ireland caps since his Leinster debut in 2010 and Ireland debut in 2013.
At Leinster he won three Heineken Cups, two PRO12 titles, a PRO14 title and a Challenge Cup. He also featured in all three test matches for the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand in 2017.
He hasn’t a bad try scoring record for a prop with 12 tries including a try in Leinster’s 52-3 drubbing over Wasps in round one of this year’s Heineken Champions Cup campaign.
McGrath has found appearances this season in short supply at Leinster due to injury coupled with the emergence of Ed Byrne and Cian Healy rediscovering his form. He’s played just 381 minutes for his native province which led to Healy taking the starting jersey and Dave Kilcoyne usurping the replacement jersey.
Ultimately, this move will benefit all parties involved – Ulster increase their strength in depth, McGrath gets first team rugby and the IRFU has a Lion playing regular rugby bolstering their options for the future.
- June 2013 – ankle injury sustained on tour of Australia
- December 2013 – concussion suffered against Northampton
- May 2017 – elbow injury in Leinster’s PRO12 semi final defeat to Scarlets, but successfully recovered ahead of the Lions tour.
- November 2017 – hip injury sustained away to Ulster
- September 2018 – injured knee in training, out for one month.
- December 2018 – hip operation ruled him out for 4-6 weeks.
As it stands ahead of next season, Ulster’s front row options look very healthy:
There’s some uncertainty as to whether Wiehahn Herbst will be at the province much longer with South African media reporting that he has signed for the Bulls, perhaps leaving Ulster a bit light at tighthead. From an Ulster point of view, there’s quite a few players ahead of Marty Moore in the international pecking order, but if he finishes the season strongly, there’s a high chance that he will be on the plane to Japan at the start of next season.
Tom O’Toole burst onto the scene at the end of last season making a great impression in his 179 appearances. He has been used sparingly this season however, with 11 of his 14 appearances coming off the bench. Likewise Eric O’Sullivan has done a sterling job in his debut season, playing 1081 minutes over 22 appearances and the signing of McGrath should aid his development and take a lot of the pressure off the academy graduate.
This arrival is a sign of the strides Ulster have made in the last year and they are edging closer towards a squad that has the ability to compete for silverware. We’ve seen Ulster take on packs in recent weeks and they even won a scrum against the head on Saturday, thanks to the work that Aaron Dundon has put in. It’s an excellent signing and I can’t wait to see McGrath take the field in the white jersey next season.