'Ireland must pick Madigan – Jackson is not ready yet'
MOSS FINN believes that Ian Madigan should be selected ahead of Paddy Jackson for the out-half duties against France on Saturday afternoon.
Finn, who represented Ireland 14 times between 1979 and 1986, remains unconvinced of Jackson's ability to play at the highest level, claiming that Ulster are much more impressive with Ruan Pienaar at out-half.
In Madigan (below), though, he sees a player he believes has all the attributes needed to develop into an international-standard pivot. "Madigan is gutsy, a strong tackler, has excellent distribution and can kick," said the former Munster wing.
"He kicked well for Leinster in the last two games and I believe he has the confidence to deal with whatever France throw at Ireland on Saturday."
In Jonathan Sexton's likely injury-enforced absence, Finn believes the Leinster player is the one Declan Kidney must now turn to for Saturday's game.
There is, however, a caveat ... Finn would have selected Ronan O'Gara.
Finn believes that the only reason for dropping O'Gara from the squad is if Kidney has written off this year's Championship and is building for the future – O'Gara will be retired by the 2015 World Cup.
"I feel very strongly about this. There is no way Ronan O'Gara should have been dropped from the squad now," stated Finn. "I don't accept that he is 'out of form'.
"I've seen enough of him this season to know that suggestion is nonsense. He tried too hard in his cameos off the bench and that was against him. But I really believe that if Ireland were determined to win this game against France, he should have been the selection.
"He didn't have a good outing with Munster against Llanelli a few weeks ago, but none of the Munster players played well that night.
"Munster played Cardiff in Cork a few weeks ago and but for O'Gara they would have been absolutely annihilated.
"He kept them in the game and stopped what had the potential of developing into an absolute rout.
"Against Ospreys the other night he also did well. His penalty kick at the start of the game was top class.
"I realise he's 36 years of age this week but he is a phenomenally fit 36-year-old. I really don't believe his race is run yet."
Jackson hasn't impressed Finn to any great degree, either with Ulster or Ireland.
"I wouldn't pick Paddy Jackson. There is no doubting that Ulster are far stronger when they play Paul Marshall at scrum-half and deploy Ruan Pienaar at out-half," he said.
"Jackson might well develop into an international out-half and represents the future. But he is not ready yet and I am yet to be convinced.
"On the other hand, Madigan, I believe, is the real deal. He has been excellent at either 10 or 15 for Leinster and has all the attributes to be a really good player at international level. He will also improve rapidly now it looks like he will be first choice with Leinster next season."
Shane Byrne also believes that Madigan is the right pick at this stage and he has backed the decision of Kidney to blood the younger generation this weekend.
"The Championship is gone. Why not put them in and build for the future?" said the former Leinster and Ireland hooker.
"It is the passing of an era. Ronan has had a marvellous career but the two young whipper-snappers have been waiting for their time and Ronan won't be there for the World Cup in 2015, so given these circumstances I think it important to select on that basis."
Where the former Ireland internationals differ is in their assessment of the coaching landscape. Finn would prefer to reserve judgment until after the Championship and believes that when candidates are considered,
Kidney should be in the mix.
"He is one of the most successful coaches ever. Ireland are in, or are about to enter, a period of transition and time should be taken to look around and see who is available and assess everyone on their merits," said Finn.
Byrne does agree that the best candidate should be identified for the role, but doesn't believe Kidney should be part of those discussions.
"I wouldn't like to see any witch-hunt for his head, but his time is up. The consistency in results hasn't been there since the Grand Slam and I would like to see the IRFU throw the windows open and see what CVs arrive on their desk," he said.
"Right now Irish rugby is at a pivotal stage and we need to start looking at rebuilding through a transitional phase with the next World Cup in mind.
"For that reason I'd like to see the IRFU move the sun, moon and stars to get the right person and move from there."