Monday 25 September 2017

Ian Madigan signs three-year deal with Bristol

Ireland fly-half Ian Madigan will join Bristol from Bordeaux this summer
Ireland fly-half Ian Madigan will join Bristol from Bordeaux this summer

Ian Madigan has signed a three-year deal to join Bristol from Bordeaux this summer, in a move that will be unlikely to improve his fortunes with Ireland.

The 27-year-old has agreed a lucrative switch to the Ashton Gate club, but will in all probability spend next season in England's second-tier Championship.

Bristol, who are seven points adrift at the foot of the Aviva Premiership table, are understood to have outbid Northampton in a deal worth almost £500,000 a season to recruit Madigan, with the Irish provinces unwilling to compete with those terms.

Madigan left Leinster last summer in a bid for a regular starting berth at fly-half, but has agreed a release halfway through his contract in France to join Bristol.

"The opportunity to come to England and prove myself here is one that I relish," said Madigan, who will join Bristol in the summer.

"Bristol Rugby has a clear vision for what they want to achieve and the club's philosophy match my own ambitions.

"I know the expansive style of rugby that (incoming head coach) Pat (Lam) and his coaching team want to play and that excites me.

"I was so impressed with the vision that was laid out to me, it made it an easy decision to commit to Bristol.

"The culture that the club are building, coupled with a city that loves its rugby, is something that really appeals to me.

"I'm looking forward to representing Bristol in front of the passionate supporters at Ashton Gate."

Madigan's continued exile from Ireland will not improve his opportunities for Test rugby given the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) stance around overseas-based players.

Ireland have effectively adopted an unwritten rule of overlooking stars based abroad, and only drafting in those players amid injury gluts.

Madigan has remained all-but surplus to requirements in France, and can expect more of the same in England.

Connacht boss Lam will head up Bristol's new-look coaching structure next term, with All Blacks flanker Steven Luatua already signed up to arrive in the summer.

But Bristol are now odds-on to be spending next season in the Championship, in light of Sunday's 41-24 loss at relegation rivals Worcester.

Lam has already committed himself to Bristol for next term whatever the division, and the likelihood is that their big-money signings will do the same.

"Ian is a player we have been looking at for a while," said acting head coach Mark Tainton.

"It's been no secret that we were seeking a world-class fly-half and - with his age profile and experience - Ian fits the bill perfectly.

"He has bought into what we are trying to achieve here. Ian has chosen to commit for three years and we're delighted to have secured his services with a number of high-profile clubs interested in him.

"With his distribution and goal kicking skills, Ian will be a fantastic asset to us in the fly-half position."

Bristol have also announced that promising fly-half Callum Sheedy has agreed a new deal with the club.

The 21-year-old, who has been on loan at Championship side Jersey Reds this season, said: "I'm delighted to have re-signed for Bristol and I'm looking forward to what the future brings at the club. I'm looking forward to continue growing my game by working and learning from a world-class fly-half like Ian (Madigan)."

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