Wednesday 20 September 2017

Tony Ward: International exile rule unfair and impractical

Irish out-half Ian Madigan will be moving from Bordeaux to Bristol next season Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Irish out-half Ian Madigan will be moving from Bordeaux to Bristol next season Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Tony Ward

Tony Ward

I must confess to having mixed feelings about Ian Madigan's latest move.

I wish him and Bristol - given that Pat Lam will be taking over - the best, whether it is Championship or Premiership rugby next season.

In rugby terms it is not just a quick fix but potentially an ideal one.

My preference for Madigan, had the option been available, would have been a move to Connacht, where it looks like the expansive game-plan will continue - Kieran Keane looks a fair bet to take up where Lam left off.

To be fair, Madigan will now be working with the original in Lam, and for almost double what he might have been earning in Galway had that possibility existed.

The snag of course is the same now as it was in Bordeaux. Come Ireland selection, out of sight is out of mind.

Forgive me but I can't help wondering that if it were Conor Murray pitching his tent in the South West of another landmass, would the same barring order apply?

Maybe it would. Either way I think it is practically and ethically wrong.

If a player goes abroad to further his career - and no-one will convince me that Madigan went to France for the money - surely he should be encouraged to give it his best shot, fuelled by the incentive of still qualifying for that precious green shirt.

IRFU performance director David Nucifora and head coach Joe Schmidt have made it clear where they stand.

It should have been Johnny Sexton but it looks like Madigan will be the first really high-profile casualty in exile. It's a heavy price to pay.

Here's hoping the ex-Leinster man enjoys, like Gareth Steenson at Exeter, a sojourn he can recall with pride in years to come.

Bristol's gain is most definitely Irish rugby's loss.

Irish Independent

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