Sport Rugby

Sunday 19 November 2017

Madigan can inject Blues with flair of old – Wallace

Tony Ward, Paul Wallace and Ruaidhri O'Connor at the Irish Independent Heineken Star Predictor podcast (which can be accessed at www.independent.ie/heinekenpodcast). To Get in the Game visit: www.heineken.ie/game
Tony Ward, Paul Wallace and Ruaidhri O'Connor at the Irish Independent Heineken Star Predictor podcast (which can be accessed at www.independent.ie/heinekenpodcast). To Get in the Game visit: www.heineken.ie/game
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

IAN MADIGAN should lead the Leinster back-line in Northampton if Matt O'Connor wants his side to click, according to former Lions prop Paul Wallace.

The Australian has opted for Jimmy Gopperth in the two previous rounds of the Heineken Cup and his side have come out on top of their battles with the Ospreys and Castres without finding the fluency they enjoyed over the last couple of seasons.

Leinster travel to Franklin's Gardens on top of Pool 1 after their opening games but will know that quarter-final qualification hinges on these back-to-back fixtures.

And Wallace believes Ireland international Madigan can provide the cutting edge they need to overcome the team they beat in the 2011 final.

STRUCTURED

"Personally, I'd go for Madigan," he said. "I think Jimmy Gopperth has done a great job, and away from home you might want to play a safer, more structured game – and when I say safer I mean Gopperth has played more rugby this year and has more experience.

"But I think Leinster are going away from what made them a great side – high-tempo rugby – and Madigan can give you that. I'm a big fan of watching Madigan play. It's a tight call, but I'd go for Madigan."

The 24-year-old is one of the large contingent of Leinster stars bedding back in to provincial life after the bitter disappointment of Ireland's defeat to New Zealand.

That loss will live long in the memory, but Wallace reckons that the players involved can draw from their performance and channel it into provincial success.

"I'd think you would use a loss like that to drive you on. Also, they'd have taken a lot of confidence from a performance like that, they can take on anyone now after taking on the best in the world," he said.

"If a core of Leinster players can nearly beat the All Blacks, then why can't they do it against the Northampton Saints?"

Munster, meanwhile, must attempt to bully Perpignan at Thomond Park to stop the Top 14 side plundering a precious bonus point on Sunday, according to Wallace. "Perpignan would be delighted with a bonus point, any side in Europe would be delighted to come to Thomond Park and get a bonus," said the former Munster stalwart, whose weekend verdicts can be seen on the Star Predictor table (below).

"They have the biggest pack around. I've never seen people the size of them. But even with their size, coming over to Munster it will not make too much of a difference. Next week, when Munster travel over there, that's when it comes into play.

"So it's important Munster don't give up a bonus point. It is not just a win – they have to make sure they don't give that up because they'll find it hard to get a bonus point, never mind a win, over there."

Connacht, meanwhile, face the daunting task of travelling to Toulouse and Wallace fears Pat Lam's side will suffer a heavy loss, unless they can expose the French side's weakness at out-half.

"Just the physical size of Toulouse – I was on the pitch before the Saracens game at Wembley and the size of (Gillian) Galan. If you don't have Galan running at you, it's (Louis) Picamoles. Throughout the side they have size," he said.

"But they have a huge Achilles heel and they have had for a long time: they don't have a No 10 who can win a game for you. They have Luke McAlister and Lionel Beauxis, but would Beauxis win a game for you on the road?

"Connacht need a performance after last weekend. We heard Pat Lam talking about the embarrassment of those last few minutes against Edinburgh when they let them run in a few tries.

"This weekend is all about hanging in there and keeping the scoreboard okay. Toulouse have one of the best teams around, but they're like the biggest bus with no driver."

Irish Independent

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