Wednesday 22 November 2017

Madigan masterclass fails to sway Kidney

Ian Madigan is tackled by Manoa Vosawai of Benetton Treviso
Ian Madigan is tackled by Manoa Vosawai of Benetton Treviso
Conor George

Conor George

Ian Madigan's name is conspicuous in its absence from the 29-man Ireland squad assembling at Carton House tonight.

All those included received emails on Saturday night from the Ireland management. That Madigan's inbox remained empty is astonishing given his performance for Leinster in their demolition of Treviso at the RDS that evening.

The out-half was irresistible, and must have forced the Ireland coaching team to think hard before opting for Ulster's Paddy Jackson. Madigan's time will come.

Of course, his and Leinster's excellence must be tempered by the shocking limpness of Treviso. The Italians were appalling. But you can only beat what's in front of you.

Leinster gutted Treviso in a wholly professional manner. They had the game wrapped up as a contest before the first quarter was over – and the bonus point was secured by the half-hour mark.

Dominic Ryan bagged a hat-trick of tries, Sean Cronin a brace and replacement Leo Auva'a got in on the act near the end as Leinster laid waste to the visitors.


But this game wasn't really about whether or not Leinster won. What was more important was how the individual players performed, especially those fighting to be involved against Scotland. The needs of Ireland must always outweigh those of the province.

The provinces are there to service the national team, which is why it was hugely important that Madigan not only performed well but also showed consistency from the kicking-tee, a facet of his game that has been criticised in the past.

When his first kick for the extras to Ryan's 10th-minute try went to the left of the posts, it didn't augur well.

Madigan was unfazed and didn't miss a kick again – he converted the subsequent four tries before being replaced by Isaac Boss on 65 minutes.

"I thought Ian kicked really well again," enthused Leinster coach Joe Schmidt. "Apart from one cross-field kick and the first conversion attempt all the rest were superb.

"He ran the game really well, pierced the line on attack, which is one of his strengths, and his passing game was really good. You could also hear on the play-back that he was organising the players around him."

Madigan's kicking performance was timely. On Friday night, Jackson, who was in Ireland's training camp last week, ran the line for Ulster but didn't kick from the tee. Those duties were carried out by Ruan Pienaar.

If Madigan is to progress his career, he needs to extinguish any doubts that linger over his kicking consistency.

Saturday night's performance will have opened some people's eyes in this regard, with his four successes from five kicks. His kick to the corner in the lead-up to Ryan's second try was superb.

That he consistently provided the platform for his forwards will surely not have gone unnoticed by the Ireland management, although clearly the Blackrock College graduate didn't, for some reason, do enough to persuade them to include him in this week's squad.

"I don't know," laughed Schmidt. "I'm glad I don't have to make the decision between the out-halves certainly.

"Paddy Jackson is a super young player. He's had a couple of rough times against us, especially in the Heineken Cup final last season. But you can see his skill set. He's also got a great defensive game and is playing well.

"The Ians plural – Keatley and Madigan – are both good running 10s and both are becoming more assured.

"Ian (Madigan), I'm sure put his best foot forward tonight. I'll react to the decisions that get made elsewhere."

Devin Toner has been called up by Ireland and he was outstanding out of touch on Saturday.

Indeed, all the Leinster players who were auditioning for international recognition performed well, as Schmidt acknowledged.

"Devin was superb. And I thought Fergus McFadden was also at his combative best and Luke (Fitzgerald) showed great footwork and strength. He looks to be on the verge of being really dangerous."

Leinster's victory has consolidated their position in the top four. They are now three points ahead of fourth-placed Scarlets, who they play next weekend.

There is another three-point cushion between them and Ospreys. The five points claimed here have afforded them some breathing room.

But while that is a success for Leinster it is difficult not to believe that an opportunity for the greater good was missed by McFadden only getting a few minutes at outside-centre.

McFadden has packaged himself as a winger this season and he might well feature there for Ireland at the weekend. His best position remains inside-centre and there is a position there for the taking with Ireland following Gordon D'Arcy's injury.

Surely the Irish management would have benefited from seeing McFadden positioned there on Saturday? That said, as Schmidt acknowledged, McFadden is a contender for the left-wing in Simon Zebo's absence.

"There are positions there because of all the injuries. Fergus will be in the mix for that left-wing slot, I'm sure," said the Leinster coach.

LEINSTER – L Fitzgerald; D Kearney, E O'Malley (F Carr 54), A Goodman (N Reid 54), F McFadden; I Madigan (I Boss 65), E Reddan; J McGrath (J O'Connell 65), S Cronin (A Dundon 73), J Hagan (M Bent 56); B Marshall (L Cullen 54), D Toner, R Ruddock, D Ryan, J Murphy (L Auva'a 56).

TREVISO – G Toniolatti (B William 56); L Nitoglia, A Pratichetti (C Loamanu 58), G La Grange, T Iannone; J Ambrosini, F Semenzato; M Rizzo (I Fernandez-Rouyet 65), G Maistri, J Roux (I Fernandez-Rouyet 65); M Fuser (F Giusti 33), C Van Zyl; D Budd, V Bernabo (F Sbaraglini 65), M Vosawai.

Ref – L Hodges (Wales).

Irish Independent

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