Friday 21 July 2017

'I wouldn’t be looking to play in the Championship' - 2015 Madigan interview raises questions about Bristol move

Ian Madigan. Photo: Sportsfile
Ian Madigan. Photo: Sportsfile

Jack de Menezes

Ian Madigan has agreed to join Bristol in the summer on a three-year deal, despite the very realistic chance that they will be relegated from the Premiership this season.

The 27-year-old Ireland fly-half will leave Top 14 side Bordeaux-Begles at the end of the season after failing to settle in France, having left Leinster in 2016. Madigan was overlooked by Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt for the Six Nations this year due to his decision to move to France, but playing in the Premiership – or Championship – doesn't mean he will return to the national side given that the entire squad is based in Ireland.

“The opportunity to come to England and prove myself here is one that I relish,” Madigan said after Bristol announced the move on Monday. “Bristol Rugby has a clear vision for what they want to achieve and the club’s philosophy match my own ambitions.”

However, his decision to join Bristol at a time when they are seven points adrift from safety following Sunday’s demoralising 41-24 defeat by 11th-placed Worcester Warriors has raised attention to an interview Madigan gave in 2015 ahead of his Leinster exit, in which he cast doubt on joining Bristol because he did not want to play in the second tier of English rugby.

“I certainly wouldn’t be looking to play in the Championship,” Madigan said two years ago. “If you decide to move to a club like Bristol, you’re taking a massive risk in them not getting promoted.

“Having been in such a fantastic club like Leinster, you’re used to competing and winning competitions. I’d great success even as a kid playing with Kilmacud Crokes. I was lucky that I was on good a good schools team in Blackrock. I play sport to win competitions, and to win medals. That’s why I’m in the business.”

Madigan’s previous admission casts doubt on why he now feels risking a move to the Championship is worth it, given that Bristol have been known to shell out lucrative financial deals in recent years in their effort to return to the Premiership. However, the recent scrapping of the Championship playoffs, meaning that the side who tops the standings will now get promoted, may have played a part in his decision.

But it looks as though another persuasive factor in making Madigan’s mind up was the imminent arrival of current Connacht head coach Pat Lam, the man who guided the Irish provincial side to last season’s unexpected Pro12 title and who will take over as Bristol head coach in the summer to replace Mark Tainton.

“I know the expansive style of rugby that Pat [Lam] and his coaching team want to play and that excites me,” Madigan added. “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.”

As well as the addition of Madigan, Bristol announced the contract extension of 21-year-old fly-half Callum Sheedy, who is currently on loan at Championship side Jersey and in high demand for his international allegiance through his qualification for Wales as his country of birth, Ireland through ancestry and England on residency grounds.

(© Independent News Service)

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