Monday 20 November 2017

Madigan happy to gain momentum

IT was there in the black and white of the weekly squad update. Leinster will welcome Kevin McLaughlin, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Rob Kearney, Eoin Reddan, Mike Ross and Jonathan Sexton back into contention for Saturday's PRO12 match against the Cardiff Blues.

While this is positive news for coach Joe Schmidt, the last name on this seven-man list doesn't exactly bring music to the ears of Leinster's interim out-half Ian Madigan.

Given the looming danger of Glasgow away in the penultimate round of the Heineken Cup pool stage eight days later, Sexton must be short-odds to start in Wales this weekend, probably returning Madigan to the bench.

"I'm happy with how the season has gone so far. Obviously with the World Cup and Johnny being away and Matt (Berquist) being injured, it meant I got a good run of games," Madigan said.

"Johnny has been away again so I've had a good run of games against Treviso, Ulster, Cardiff and Connacht. I've really enjoyed it so far."


Far from cowering in the shadow of Sexton, Madigan has progressed rapidly this season. His strength is there. His feet can fracture defences.

"I'd like to think I have a different dimension to my game. I'm more of a running out-half. There are certainly parts of their game that are better than mine, though," he admitted.

For sure, his game-management must improve. There is a time to shine and a time to take territory by launching the ball long or at an angle.

"I definitely need to work more on my kicking out of hand and my game management. Just controlling the pack and directing them around the pitch a bit better."

Three years ago, there was a dearth of talent in place to step-in for Ronan O'Gara at international level. Now, Sexton is coming to the peak of his powers.

The inexperienced Madigan is moving into a log-jam beside Munster's Ian Keatley and Ulster's Ian Humphreys as the next tier of playmakers ahead of two exceptional Ireland U20s in Ulster's Paddy Jackson and Leinster's mercurial Cathal Marsh.


Madigan knows he needs to fine-tune the entire gamut of skills needed by an out-half: "I've been working on my place-kicking a lot and, to be honest, I would like to be taking the place-kicks.

"Joe has the over-riding call on it though and so far he's had Johnny, Fergus (McFadden) and Isa (Nacewa) kicking. I'm sure I'll get a chance at some stage, but for now I'm happy to bide my time until it comes."

Patience can be a virtue. Madigan wants to become a virtuoso. He will need to.

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