Saturday 21 October 2017

Madigan vows not to change his daring approach

But Leinster ace won't repeat Marseille mishap

Luke Fitzgerald, Ian Madigan and Sean O’Brien at yesterday’s launch of the new Ireland rugby jersey, supplied by Canterbury
Luke Fitzgerald, Ian Madigan and Sean O’Brien at yesterday’s launch of the new Ireland rugby jersey, supplied by Canterbury
David Kelly

David Kelly

To many it seemed too much like a million-dollar play waiting to go wrong; for others, it was a shot at success worth taking in a claustrophobic Cup knockout scenario.

Ian Madigan has re-watched that late intercept pass - the only one ever thrown in his professional career - and, although he admits he wouldn't attempt his Marseille mishap again, he has vowed not to change his enigmatic approach to the sport.

Irish rugby was divided in their assessment of the play in first-half injury-time of Leinster's epic Champions Cup semi-final against the three-time champions.

Tony Ward of this parish didn't agree with the gambit but former team-mate Brian O'Driscoll suggested that Rudi Wulf's defensive pressure had forced Madigan's hand.

Despite having Jordi Murphy on his shoulder during that critical injury-time passage of play against Toulon, Madigan spied Ben Te'o in space and felt the play was on.

However, Wulf's pressure tested the Leinster man's technique and Bryan Habana benefited, sprinting gleefully to the line as the French giants broke the back of Leinster's resistance.

"I've certainly looked at it and I wouldn't do it again," Madigan admits of what was the 14-point swing turnaround in the game.

Process

"You have to review these things like you review your whole game, you can't just shy away from it. What I look back on is my process. I went for a pass that I thought was on but I didn't quite execute what I saw.

"The ball didn't come out of my hand clean, it slipped out of my hand a small bit. If it came out of my hand clean, it would have gone to Ben Te'o instead of drifting to Bryan Habana.

"If I had my time again, I probably would have passed to Jordi Murphy and trusted him. It was a stage of the game I was just going on instincts as opposed to our process.

"So if I had my time again I probably would have passed it to Jordi and let him make the decision as opposed to putting a lower percentage play on my own back."

Madigan is, however, one of Irish rugby's brightest talents, the kind of game-breaker who, with one spurt, can alter the complexion of a contest, as Leinster belatedly allowed him to do from the out-half role last weekend in Edinburgh.

Fortunately for those who crave the dying breed of enigmas in the sport, Madigan is convinced that his error, despite the over-wrought circumstances, will not compel him to change his attitude to the game.

"You guys know my style of play, it's going for plays and that's in my make-up," he insists. "It was the first ever intercept I've thrown in my professional rugby career. I don't think there's anything massively wrong there. I saw that the pass was on and I went with my instincts.

"The ball slipped in my hands slightly and it was the execution that let me down. I still trust my instincts on it.

"I'm not going to change the style of my play off the back of it. But I'd be naive to think that can happen again.

"If that happens in a World Cup game … they way you prevent it is to go with the higher percentage option by shifting it to Jordi and let him make the decision."

Madigan remains Joe Schmidt's second-choice, presumably, albeit missing out on the Pro12 play-offs unearths the danger of allowing Paddy Jackson and Ian Keatley to conceivably challenge for that right and, perhaps, even his guaranteed World Cup squad berth.

"All professional players are naturally worriers. I definitely would but for me it is about controlling the controllables.

"That is getting into the gym, working on my strength, getting out onto the field and practising my kicking, my passing and working as close as I can with Joe Schmidt to do what he wants done in matches.

"That's all I can control. I can't do anything about Ian and Paddy this weekend. That's up to them. I can just make the most of the week I have this week and keep improving as a player."

Madigan is also keen to reiterate that, despite Leinster's Pro12 flop, the squad unequivocally support their under-fire coach Matt O'Connor.

"The players are 100 per cent behind him. He's a brilliant coach. Where we fell short this year was not going out and executing the game-plan he formulated for us in that given week. I don't think the players took enough responsibility for that.

"There wasn't one week where we lost and I thought, 'Oh we did the game-plan there and we fell short'. That simply didn't happen. There were times in the season where I thought we really clicked, showed class as a team and his class as a coach.

"Next year with Johnny Sexton and the likes of Isa Nacewa coming back, young lads like Collie O'Shea, Luke McGrath and Noel Reid coming on; they are going to be a year older and wiser and I think we are going to be in a strong position next season."

Sexton will not be involved in the Barbarians game in Limerick next week while Keatley and Jackson may yet be detained by a Pro12 final duel so Madigan will get an early opportunity to road-test himself as a front-line out-half for Schmidt.

It may not last long, with Sexton primed to guide Ireland throughout the pivotal World Cup contests as Schmidt's on-field general while his return to Leinster will also see him shoehorn Madigan into his now familiar inside centre berth once more.

"With the World Cup only around the corner it is about making the most of every opportunity you can get.

"The likes of Paddy and Ian will have their opportunities this weekend in the semi-finals and hopefully my opportunity will come against the Barbarians.

"It is very important that you put your best foot forward with the break just around the corner because that is the break you are going to be leaving with the coaches going into pre-season.

"Once that starts it's about doing your best to impress every single day. I have had pre-seasons with Joe before at Leinster and I know that every action counts. With Johnny coming back to Leinster next season we have such a quality player, one of the best players in Europe if not the world.

"I would be naive to think that they wouldn't be starting him at out-half, so for me it is about putting my best foot forward to be playing in the team alongside him.

"I probably hope that's in the ten position. And if Johnny is unfit or unavailable for what whatever reason then I'd be ready to step in to the out-half position."

Canterbury, the official kit supplier to the IRFU, yesterday unveiled the official range of training wear that will be worn by the Irish rugby team throughout the 2015 Rugby World Cup and beyond.

Irish Independent

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