Tuesday 24 April 2018

'I'm open to playing for any of the provinces' - Ian Madigan issues come-and-get-me plea to IRFU

Unhappy Madigan airs his Bordeaux grievances

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ian Madigan began his comments yesterday with the proviso that he remains contracted to Bordeaux Begles next season, but what followed appeared to move him closer to the door marked 'Sortie'.

On Monday, a private conversation between him and the Bordeaux Begles president Laurent Marti went public and the security of his tenure at the club became public.

Although he says the Midi Olimpique report that he will be allowed to terminate his agreement and find a new employer if Bordeaux can find a replacement is premature, his public critique of the club is unlikely to go down well in France.

Yesterday, the Ireland out-half outlined just what has been happening in the heart of wine country where things have gone sour after eight months of the relationship before voicing his hope that a move home might be the best possible solution.

A good start to life in the Top 14 was undermined by a troublesome groin injury which coincided with the return from New Zealand of the popular 23-year-old out-half Simon Hickey.

His month out also clashed with the November internationals, but by then Madigan was already finding out that the IRFU's policy towards overseas-based players has hardened.

"It was tough straight away," he conceded. "The first game I hadn't been involved in in maybe two or three seasons, we happened to beat the All Blacks so it was tough not being involved for that one. I was also delighted for the guys."

Although he started the European games, his last league start was on October 30 and he has been publicly criticised by coach Raphael Ibanez.

His own personal issues were not helped by the news that Australian winger Adam Ashley-Cooper's contract was not renewed, which made him question the club's ambitions.

Frustrated by it all, he sought clear-the-air talks with the top man.

Ireland international and former Ireland U20s out-half, Ian Madigan in Donnybrook announces Electric Ireland’s continued support of the Under 20’s Six Nations. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Ireland international and former Ireland U20s out-half, Ian Madigan in Donnybrook announces Electric Ireland’s continued support of the Under 20’s Six Nations. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"Two weeks ago I had a meeting with the president which I made clear at the start that I want to make things work, that I want to stay in Bordeaux but there were certain things I wasn't happy with in the club," he said.

"And off the back of that, he was clear with me that he knew there were issues I was dealing with. He'd obviously seen I wasn't being selected for the Top 14 games. And he decided he'd take some time to think about the second year of my contract. It was very much a private conversation and I do believe that things will still work out for me in Bordeaux.

"It wasn't a case of me going in there and saying I was going to leave or handing in my resignation.

"As things stand, I'm on a two-year contract and I still really want things to work there. It's a really good team, I'm enjoying the lifestyle over there.

"Obviously I've had some challenges over the last few months that I want to work through and get through to the other end."

Speaking up in private was a risk, but yesterday he went public with his grievances. Where it leaves his agent Ryan Constable, who is trying to sort out his future, remains to be seen.

Posing for a selfie with a supporter Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Posing for a selfie with a supporter Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"The easy thing for me would be to sit back and cruise through things. But I ultimately felt there has been a loss of confidence from the coach in me personally and I felt I had to act upon it," he said.

"There was certain things I was dealing with. We were in a great position in the Champions Cup to qualify, we beat Ulster in (Stade) Chaban, we got a bonus point in Clermont and we'd beaten Exeter in Exeter, so we're sitting on nine points after three games and we'd Exeter at home in the following game. We decided to rotate our team and didn't get a point.

"We ended up on 13 points and Toulon qualified on 15. On a personal note, that was very disappointing.

"One of the big reasons that I joined the club was Adam Ashley-Cooper is there. I talked to him at length before I joined and he ended up advising me, improving my game while I've been there. It's very disappointing to hear that he hasn't been extended by the club and it makes me question where their ambition is on that front.

"He is vital for our back play. He is always inputting ideas and strategy and he's our top try scorer.

"Any time I have played with him, he is the kind of guy who makes you feel very good about yourself and the kind of guy you want to play alongside.

"And that is felt throughout the club by both the international and French players. They really enjoy playing alongside him, he is a vital part of the club so when it was learned that he wasn't being kept on it was a blow to everyone.

"You would like to think they will bring in someone who has got real experience who can input their intellectual ability. That is what you want and what you need in the Top 14. If you look at the teams that have gone well. Look at the likes of Pau, who have won their last six games, the intellectual guys they have like Colin Slade and Conrad Smith, they are a team who have really grown as the season has gone on.

"The Top 14 is a long season - 26 regular season games - the key is that you improve as the season goes on and if you do that then you are going to be in the mix at the end of it. It is not about shooting out of the blocks, it is about improving week on week.

"Teams who have done that are building something special.

"It (speaking to the president) was certainly a risk but I wasn't going in there to the president to criticise the overall system or have a real go at the coaches. That wasn't it. It was an open conversation, you know? 'Is this working on your part, is this working on my part?' and ultimately about trying to get solutions. It wasn't to see the exit door."

Maybe not, but it seems clear that the exit door is looming and Madigan has put on record that he is open to a return to Ireland if one of the provinces will take him.

"A move back to Ireland would certainly excite me," he said at an Electric Ireland event to promote the Ireland U-20s' upcoming home games.

"There's no doubt in my mind about that. Playing for Ireland is still the ultimate for me.

"The reason I made the move was to improve as a rugby player, the reason why I had that conversation with our president is because I didn't feel that I had the confidence of the coaches or felt valued as a player.

"I was in there to get to the bottom of it and try improve that situation.

"If I felt that that was going to be a long-term thing, then, did he really want to keep me at the club or will he give me another opportunity to join another club and play rugby, because ultimately that's what I want.

"If it did happen that they decided to release me and an opportunity to come back to Ireland came up it definitely would be something that would excite me.

"But these conversations haven't been had because I am under contract so nothing has been done on that front. It has just been strictly speculation over the last few days.

"A return to Leinster would no doubt be top of my list. Having lived here, all my friends are here, and having played for Leinster. It is a pretty special place, but I would certainly be open to playing for any of the provinces.

"One thing about moving away this year, it definitely has opened up my horizons for who I can (play for), without doubt."

Irish Independent

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