First cap means world to Fergus
McFadden taking nothing for granted ahead of Ireland bow
NEW Ireland cap Fergus McFadden has the giant figure of Clermont-Auvergne’s 16-stone Fijian winger Napolioni Nalaga to thank for his elevation to international class.
When Leinster coach Joe Schmidt weighed up his options in keeping tabs on Nalaga, a destructive force in motion, in the Heineken Cup double header against Clermont- Auvergne before Christmas, he arrived at the conclusion that his direct, aggressive centre McFadden could handle the change in climate on the wing.
“Luke (Fitzgerald) and Rob (Kearney) got injured in the back three. Nalaga, the right wing for Clermont, is quite big and he (Schmidt) was looking for someone physical to mark him,” revealed McFadden.
“He asked me was I happy to play there and I said ‘of course’. I showed well against The Scarlets (in his first match there) and kicked on from there. I can play centre and wing now.”
A few short months on, an Ireland injury jinx has opened the way for a player, surely sick of hearing how he was Player of the Churchill Cup in 2009, to make an impact at the highest level.
“There was an opening there. Things were looking positive for me in training. But, you never make presumptions. My heart was beating pretty fast when he (Declan Kidney) was calling out the team,” admitted McFadden.
“It has been going great for me. It is adding more strings to my bow and, obviously, there is a World Cup around the corner. You have to have that at the back of your mind. It is a competitive squad. I can’t complain,” he said.
Obviously, Schmidt could see something McFadden didn’t recognise in himself, a versatility, an ability to adapt in moving from inside centre out to the extremity of the wing.
“Thankfully, I got a chance on the wing and Joe is just looking to get the best players on the pitch. I fitted into the team for the last six or seven games,” said McFadden.
It can be cold out there, all alone, with only yourself for company at times. At least, that can be the case. But McFadden bought into the freedom of movement encouraged by Schmidt.
“I would like to think I am a bit of a footballer and I can play in a few positions. It also gives me a good understanding if I was to move back into the centre. You don’t get your hands on the ball as much, but your involvements can be important,” he said.
There was a time when McFadden wondered if Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy would play forever, such has been their consistency and commitment to Leinster and Ireland.
“There was a period at the start of last year when it looked as though my future didn’t lie at Leinster,” he said. “But my heart has always been at Leinster. So, I signed a two-year deal there”.
It was the stick or twist moment. He decided to stay rather than fly elsewhere. This is proof positive that he made the right choice.