Madigan: If an Irish club had come in for me earlier, I might have stayed
Ian Madigan has admitted that had an Irish province offered him a contract before he decided on a move to Bordeaux Begles last December, he would have considered staying in Ireland.
The 27-year-old will join the French club on a two-year deal next season as he risks not being selected for Ireland.
The out-half had been linked with a move to Munster as the IRFU looked to keep their players in Ireland but Madigan revealed that his discussions with Bordeaux were too far advanced before the possibility of joining another province came up.
"The option that presented itself in Bordeaux was one that came up early on and one that I was committed to from an early stage," Madigan said. "The other options in Ireland never really got to a stage where they were viable for me because I was so far down the line with Bordeaux.
"It's definitely something that I would have thought of but it never really came to fruition."
Madigan's starts at his preferred out-half position have been limited by the return of Johnny Sexton this season, and although he admitted that it would have been tough to leave Leinster for another province, he would have considered it had it been an option at an earlier stage.
"Munster are going through a small slump at the moment but to play for a club like that, with the history they have, would be incredible," he said.
"But would I be able to do it? I've grown up in Leinster, all my family support Leinster, all my friends support Leinster; it would be really tough. The parishonal sense that you have in playing for Leinster or playing for Munster is a pretty special thing in Ireland.
"While it's important that some players are going to have to move to get game-time, it's something that we want to protect. Similarly, when you see the quality brand of rugby that Connacht are playing I'd say to myself, 'Jesus, it'd be brilliant to be part of that side'."
Meanwhile, Munster's two-time European Cup winner Ronan O'Gara has backed Irish provinces to bounce back after none reached the last eight this season for the first time since 1998.
"I do think they will come back," said O'Gara an assistant coach to a Racing Metro side seeking to reach their first final against Leicester this weekend. "Leinster would have been disappointed, they are capable of beating Bath and Wasps. It was difficult for Ulster with Saracens in there.
"Munster took Leicester to the wire but they need to get back to winning games in Thomond Park and that is their biggest challenge.
"Something is not adding up when players play very well for Ireland are in the Leinster squad. I'm sure they will address that in the summer in trying to contend never mind getting out of their group." See Page 53