Monday 10 December 2018

Madigan holds all the cards

Byrne believes Blues star is 'ultimate talent'

Former Ireland hooker Shane Byrne sees Leinster's Ian Madigan as an "ultimate talent" capable of making a long-term move from ten to twelve, or even thirteen.

At the moment, the ankle injury to Noel Reid and the careful monitoring of Gordon D'Arcy's workload has prompted coach Matt O'Connor to place Madigan at twelve, taking away his chance to finally overtake Jimmy Gopperth.

"The debate about Leinster is still going to be about Madigan. It seems to be working to a certain degree, the double pivot having the ten and twelve," said Byrne.

"Knowing Madigan, I would say he just wants to play. He has the talent to play in a lot of positions. I would say he would be happy if it went ten-to-twelve and getting a regular start.

"It depends on what way you look at it. Madigan is no shrinking violet. Number twelve is a very physical position. And he's up for it. He's well able to do it".

Byrne was eager to spread the debate one slot further out as the speculation continues over who will wear the number 13 jersey.

Brendan Macken has done well enough, so far.

Luke Fitzgerald wants a shot there. D'Arcy has been strongly mooted to return to the position in which he earned the accolade of 2004 Player of the Six Nations.

The flash of genius, so inherent in Madigan, does bring to mind Brian O'Driscoll in the way he can turn a match with a change of direction or burst of acceleration.

"Maybe, it (twelve) isn't his position. Maybe, one step outside again could be a position for him.

"Then again, he needs to be playing in that position, so that's probably not an option this year".

While Madigan has been denied the opening to knuckle down to a dual with Gopperth, he has also had to cope with the confirmed return of Jonathan Sexton, the man he shadowed for so long.

"Yeah, it's frustrating for him. I am sure he wasn't too impressed when Sexton came back," added Byrne.

"Last year, everybody just thought it's a natural progression that Madigan would make that step up and challenge for the green jersey because he would be playing regular rugby.

"But those who knew Gopperth, we knew that the team he was in was all about him," offered Byrne, about the Newcastle Falcons playmaker.

"Finally, he came to a side where everyone else could play rugby as well which he hadn't had in five years of his career.

"The pressure was off him and he was able to play the rugby we all knew he was able to play."

Madigan is fast-becoming Leinster's Mr Fix It when he needs to play in a fixed position.

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