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Ian Madigan has been named the Bank of Ireland Leinster Players Player of the Year at the annual awards ceremony in the Mansion House, Dublin on Saturday evening. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.

Ian Madigan has been named the Bank of Ireland Leinster Players Player of the Year at the annual awards ceremony in the Mansion House, Dublin on Saturday evening. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.

Ian Madigan has been named the Bank of Ireland Leinster Players Player of the Year at the annual awards ceremony in the Mansion House, Dublin on Saturday evening. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.

MATT O'CONNOR was today confirmed as Leinster's next head coach on a three-year deal.

"I have been hugely encouraged by the hunger within the province to push on despite enjoying an unprecedented period of success on the field in recent years," said O'Connor.

"I look forward to working with the province's established and burgeoning talent from the renowned Leinster Academy.

"At this time my focus remains with Leicester, but I would like to thank the Leinster Board for this vote of confidence and my family and I are hugely excited about starting this new chapter in our lives".

Leinster Chief Executive Mick Dawson added: "We're delighted that Matt has agreed to become Head Coach and we believe that he will be carry on the fine work which has been done over the course of the last eight years.

"We were impressed by Matt's vision for Leinster Rugby and speaking to him it is clear that he is excited about the opportunity. We look forward to working with him over the coming years.

"Obviously we're still in contention for three trophies, the Amlin Challenge Cup, PRO12 and British & Irish Cup, and all of our focus will be on trying to end the season on a high in all three competitions."

The Leinster squad O'Connor will inherit holds every chance of a double between the consistency of the PRO12 League and a willingness to refocus into the Amlin Challenge Cup from their Heineken Cup disappointment.

Next season, it is likely O'Connor will have to maintain the happy marriage between the capture of silverware and pushing Leinster's fast-flowing, attractive style of play.

He will have to do so without his primary playmaker Jonathan Sexton, his back-three insurance policy Isa Nacewa and Springbok loose-head Heinke van der Merwe.

Then again, O'Connor will be pre-occupied with his current responsibility of guiding Leicester Tigers back to their first Premiership title since 2010.

However the rest of this season pans out, O'Connor will be handed the keys to the province where former Leicester duo Leo Cullen and Shane Jennings have been central to pushing and maintaining professional standards.

The Australian will have to deal with a changing playing roster where the most interesting challenge will come at fly-half.

It can be taken as read that Newcastle Falcon Jimmy Gopperth, the two-time Premiership Gold Boot winner for most prolific goal-kicker, agreed to move to Leinster as the likely first choice.

Since then, Ian Madigan has risen to the challenge posed by the decision of Sexton to take the money on offer at Racing Metro and was named the Leinster Players' Player of the year on Saturday night.

At the moment, he stands at 21-from-21 in his goal-kicking statistics and, also, as a part-time second receiver beside Sexton at inside centre.

Madigan wants to be Leinster's first choice out-half. Ireland's too. He has certainly shown the confidence and commitment to meet the demands of the role in the last two months.

Gopperth must have assumed he would replace Sexton long before his signature on a two-year deal was announced at the beginning of March.

This is just one of the many predicaments that will face O'Connor over the course of the first of his three seasons at Leinster.


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