Madigan ready for action for Irish
Published 13/03/2014 | 13:02
Ian Madigan is primed for his first RBS 6 Nations appearance of the season in Saturday's title-decider against France in Paris.
The Leinster fly-half will provide cover from the bench for Johnny Sexton, on the occasion of Brian O'Driscoll's 141st and final Test appearance.
Fit-again Peter O'Mahony is the sole change to the starting line-up from the 46-7 hammering of Italy in Dublin last weekend.
Iain Henderson drops to the bench, to cover lock and back row, with Jordi Murphy retaining a replacements role and Rhys Ruddock dropping out of the squad.
Ulster's Paddy Jackson has deputised for Racing Metro fly-half Sexton throughout the Six Nations so far, but misses out for the Stade de France showdown.
Madigan could find himself thrust into Ireland's highest-pressure Six Nations situation since their 2009 Grand Slam decider against Wales in Cardiff, if he joins the fray in the closing stages.
The 24-year-old has only 11 Leinster starts to his name this term too, sharing duties with Kiwi playmaker Jimmy Gopperth.
Now head coach Joe Schmidt has backed the Leinster out-half to shoulder a hefty burden, as Ireland chase just their third win in 42 years in Paris.
Schmidt will back seven-cap Madigan's extra versatility on the bench, able to cover inside centre as well as fly-half.
Munster captain O'Mahony returns after the hamstring problem that kept him out of the seven-try Italy drubbing.
Conor Murray and Cian Healy have both overcome niggling problems to retain their starting berths.
Scrum-half Murray's illness forced him out of the Azzurri rout in the first quarter, but Munster's British Lion had made a full recovery.
Wrecking ball loosehead prop Healy trudged out of the final stages in Dublin last weekend after picking up an ankle strain.
The 26-year-old Leinster front-rower spent Saturday night with his foot in a compression boot, and the precautionary measure paid dividends with Healy back to full training as early as Tuesday.
O'Driscoll will extend his Six Nations appearance record to 65 in his final international before his summer retirement.
The 35-year-old Leinster stalwart and Gordon D'Arcy will extend their world-record international centre partnership to 56 joint appearances.
Ireland team to play France in the RBS 6 Nations at the Stade de France on Saturday:
Ireland: R Kearney (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster), B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, D Kearney (all Leinster), J Sexton (Racing Metro), C Murray (Munster), C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross, D Toner (both Leinster), P O'Connell (capt), P O'Mahony (both Munster), C Henry (Ulster), J Heaslip (Leinster).
Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, M Moore (all Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), J Murphy, E Reddan, I Madigan, F McFadden (all Leinster).