Monday 19 March 2018

Ian Madigan's 'unfortunate' French exit set to open door for Paddy Jackson

Ireland's Ian Madigan
Ireland's Ian Madigan
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ian Madigan didn't get on to win his 30th cap against Scotland on Saturday and Joe Schmidt has already acknowledged that his move to Bordeaux will put his prospects of adding to the 29 he has in jeopardy.

The Ireland coach won't ignore the Dubliner's claims when he leaves Leinster at the end of this season, but his unavailability for training sessions during Top 14 weeks is likely to diminish his prospects of featuring.

Johnny Sexton underlined his status as Ireland's main man on Saturday, but Schmidt is feeling good about the depth below his talisman despite Paddy Jackson not being involved in any of his match-day 23s in the Six Nations.

Tellingly, Schmidt didn't reference any overseas No 10s as he listed his options, with JJ Hanrahan exploits at Northampton not registering on his radar, publicly at least.

It was an interesting insight into the head coach's options as he appraised Sexton's contribution. "The way Johnny marshals the team around him, the way he manages to get the best out of other players is admirable every time he puts the jersey on," Schmidt said.

"We try to mind him a little bit, but there's no minding that man. The hit he put in on Billy Vunipola that dislodged the ball, there was no hesitation in doing it from Johnny.

"When he demands physical effort from players, they are very willing workers for him because of what he puts on the line for them and for the team.

"So, I suppose, that along with the skill element that he brings to the game, the experience that he brings to the game; they're incredibly important for us.

"Ian Madigan has grown, Paddy Jackson has made some decisions really tough for us during this Six Nations.

"Ian's versatility to be able to cover a number of positions made him a little bit more attractive as a bench proposition, but Paddy's entire game is coming on and it's great to have him in camp, learning from guys like Johnny.

"That's a progress that can continue. I know it's unfortunate that Ian is going away and he's hopeful of playing a couple of seasons at Bordeaux where he's at No 10 and at the same time it gives an opportunity to Paddy and Ian Keatley.

"Unfortunately Jack Carty got injured, because he was another kid who you wouldn't have thrown in the mix a while ago.

"He's come on, it's great to see Stu Olding back and showing his versatility; he's covered a bit of No 10, played at No 12 and No 15 and I guess that's what I was talking about, there are some ageing players but there's quite a few young players that have been on the fringe and have been in and out with us.

"We're not suddenly going to give them the same experience as Johnny's got, but we hope that we can build that over a period of time."

Getting experience under alternative players' belt is difficult given the fixtures to come in 2016. "It's just so hard to do it when the next seven Test matches, six of them are against the best three teams in the world," said the Ireland coach.

"So, it doesn't allow for a massive amount of experimentation. Even last week, any experimentation is balanced with the need to get a bit of momentum, to get a bit of confidence before we go away because it's an imperfect world.

"We're never going to get the pathway that we best want, we've just got to work with what we have got in front of us and best master each step that we have in front of us."

The Springboks are the next step Schimdt's team have in front of them in Cape Town on June 11.

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