'It's important to play for my country but the most important is my club': Madigan rules out November return for Ireland
Published 15/10/2016 | 02:30
It has been billed as the battle of the Irish tens but the winner may already have been decided.
Ian Madigan's decision to decamp to Bordeaux effectively ceded his place in Joe Schmidt's international thoughts, allowing Ulster's Paddy Jackson to leapfrog him, and the coach effectively rubber-stamped the exile during the tour to South Africa.
And now the ex-Leinster man, despite his optimism of the spring when he reckoned he may still be able to keep his international hopes alive, has, it seems, all but conceded defeat in his wish to resurrect his Irish career while in the south-west of France.
Speaking yesterday in Bordeaux ahead of tomorrow's opening Champions Cup clash, Madigan detailed what in his mind seems to be the November plan; it doesn't include Chicago, Canada or Dublin 4.
"It's important to play for my country but the most important is my club," said Madigan, who watched the Ulster man play all three South Africa Tests, while he featured for just seven minutes in the final game.
"I think I'll stay here in November even if it's possible for the last match against Australia as Bordeaux don't play."
That, it seems, is that; at least, for as long as Madigan resides in France; Jackson will now be free to challenge Sexton for the number one out-half berth while Leinster sensation Joey Carbery will be fast-tracked.
However, Madigan's removal from the international sphere will only slightly dissipate the sense of a duel tomorrow afternoon; both tens are still vital to their teams' cause and it will be fascinating to assess Jackson's surge in form over the past 12 months.
It may not be personal any more but the professional stakes could not be higher.
"It's just another match for me," stresses the 26-year-old, who has so far won 31 caps for his country.
"It's a match within a match, it's not who plays better than who. If Bordeaux beat Ulster, it's a win for me, that is all I'm concerned about, doing the best I can for the team so that we win.
"I'm not concerned about proving that I'm a better player than Paddy. If I go down that route, it's teeing myself up to play a very poor game."
"He is a great player. He's been growing year on year, his confidence is getting better, he's very fast, he's got a good passing and kicking game, a good break and is very confident in the tackle.
"He showed last year that he's developed into a leader, which is great for him and Ulster.
"They've real quality and experience at scrum-half in Ruan Pienaar, he's a proven international and has been brilliant for Ulster over the last seven years. There are four international centres you can pick from depending on which type of game you want to play.
"Across the board, you've got a real quality backline and we know we're going to have to be switched on in defence this week and to break that backline down we're going to have to come up with some creative plays."
Bordeaux coach Raphael Ibanez, the former French international hooker, has been pumping his newly-arrived import for information since the summer draw was made.
Madigan has been particularly impressed with All Black Charles Piutau, like most of Europe, so the news that he will once again miss out through concussion will be greeted with some relief in France.
Ulster coach Les Kiss has still managed to combine and impressive three-quarters nonetheless and he has resisted the temptation to bring the rusty, returning Tommy Bowe, instead putting both in-form duo Rob Lyttle and Jacob Stockdale on the bench.
Bordeaux-Bègles - J-M Buttin; A Ashley-Cooper, J-B Dubié, R Lonca, B Connor; I Madigan, Y Lesgourgues; J Poirot, C Maynadier, V Cobilas, J Marais (c), C Cazeaux, L Jones, H Chalmers, L Goujon. Replacements: O Avei, S Taofifenua, M Clerc, T Palmer, M Tauleigne, B Serin, L Beauxis, M Talebulamaijaina.
Ulster - J Payne; A Trimble (c), L Marshall, S Olding, C Gilroy; P Jackson, R Pienaar; A Warwick, R Best, R Ah You, A O'Connor, F Van Der Merwe, I Henderson, C Ross, S Reidy.
Replacements: R Herring, K McCall, R Kane, P Browne, R Wilson, P Marshall, J Stockdale, R Lyttle.
Ref - JP Doyle (England)
Bordeaux-Begles v Ulster,
Live, Sky Sports 3, 1.0 tomorrow