Wednesday 22 January 2020

Madigan happy to bulk up for central role on America tour

Leinster's Ian Madigan after victory in the Amlin Challenge Cup Final
Leinster's Ian Madigan after victory in the Amlin Challenge Cup Final
David Kelly

David Kelly

Great expectations can often lead to delusions of grandeur.

Overheard in Dublin on Saturday: a Leinster fan bemoaning this campaign as a "failure". Truth is, they've never had it as good.

As another precocious player prepares to establish himself as the primary pivot at the province next season, Ian Madigan will be wary of some of the remarkably unrealistic demands of some folk.

Little fazes this neat ball-player, though. He admits to impatience at how his Ireland career is progressing. He confesses that he may need to pile on poundage to become a more acceptable representative of a now brutal sport.

As Leinster stand on the brink of two notable trophy triumphs, Madigan's position at the heart of the challenge is unquestioned.

And, as the 24-year-old prepares to tackle Ulster this weekend, thoughts turn to his personal duel with Paddy Jackson and, beyond, to an exciting challenge with Ireland in North America next month.

"I enjoy competing with him as a professional and he's a great guy as well," says Madigan. "I don't know how the tour is going to work – if he's 10 and I'm 12, that's fair enough.

"Ireland selections haven't worked for me this year so I'll just be happy to be on the plane."

Incoming Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is aware of his talents; Madigan (pictured right) has a novel approach to the conundrum.

"Why not play both? If I'm 12 we can both be on the pitch. It is an option, I offer something slightly different to a normal 12.

"I'll talk to Joe about, it, because I may need a few more kilos for the go-forward part of it. There's no secret that the passing game is my strength and I'd hope to bring that to any team I play with."

And forego his preferred out-half berth? "I'm a rugby player," he insists.

And one that quite stirs the soul. If he was Antipodean, he would be a multi-capper by now; that a certain Jonathan Sexton barred his path hasn't helped his cause.

Declan Kidney got a heap of wrath for not picking Madigan at 10; quite rich when Leinster were hardly picking him there for their big games. In any event, next season will define him, even if he has mixed feelings about Sexton's exit.

"Responsibility is never something I've shirked from, whether it's day to day doing extra video work or staying behind after training, or working with the younger players and making sure they're ready when they get the call-up," he says.

"Next year, if I am playing at 10, then it is a bit more responsibility, but I'd like to think I'm ready for that now.

"I've just become more confident in my game. I know going out to matches exactly what I'm going to do and it's very reassuring knowing what you do works.

"I know I still have a lot to work on, but if I keep training hard I'd like to think I'm on the right track.

"A lot of people have been saying how good it is for me that Jonny is leaving. But from my point of view, I've worked with Jonny for three or four years, he's the ultimate professional, he's been extremely good to me passing on advice.

"To be honest, I'm disappointed he's leaving. I thought we could have worked together at Leinster. Himself, Isa (Nacewa) and Joe are a massive loss to the squad.

"But there are good players coming through. We've proved we can survive with good players leaving in the past, so that's what we've got to do now."

Madigan will be at the forefront of that transition.

Irish Independent

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