Fergus McFadden’s appetite for Test rugby was whetted by his debut appearance against Italy. Now, the Kildare native is eagerly awaiting his chance to run out against France at the Aviva Stadium.
Fergus McFadden has been retained in an unchanged Irish back-line for this Sunday’s RBS 6 Nations showdown with France.
Reflecting on his first cap last weekend in Rome, he said: “It was unbelievable. The whole week was a real buzz. Thankfully we got the win. We held in there and got the drop goal in the end.
“I would have liked to get my hands on the ball a bit more, but fingers crossed this week will be different.”
Rather than look back with a degree of frustration on the manner of that 13-11 victory, McFadden believes that is a sign Ireland can win ‘ugly’ when needs be.
“Going back a couple of years ago, we wouldn’t have won that Grand Slam if we didn’t have that kind of mentality that we are there until the final whistle.
“We have got a lot of experienced players who know how to handle those situations and that makes a difference on big days.”
A loose pass from the usually reliable Brian O’Driscoll prevented McFadden from scoring a debut try, but the 24-year-old was happy with how he performed in the cauldron of Stadio Flaminio.
“International rugby is a different level. I felt I was solid with everything I had to do. Possibly, I could have had a try on my debut which would have been a dream come true, but the priority was to get a win for the team and that is what we did.
“Brian said straight after, ‘sorry for butchering your try on your first day.’ The only reason it has been made a deal out of is because it is Drico and he doesn’t throw those kind of passes very often.
“Hopefully this week if there is an opportunity like that I can be in the right position and fingers crossed it might go the right way this time”
Although McFadden may lack experience against French sides at international level, he can draw confidence from his outings for Leinster against Clermont Auvergne and Racing Metro 92 earlier this season.
“I had four matches in the Heineken Cup, home and away against Clermont and Racing. I felt I did well in both those sets of games.
“They have got some serious back-three players. I played on the wing in all those games and I faired well.
“They (France) don’t have shabby back-threes there. They have got some serious exciting players. You kind of go into these games really on your toes and I think I got the best out of me and hopefully it will be the same on Sunday.”
The Curragh man has always had a sneaking admiration for French rugby and its style of play. Rrecalling his earliest memories of French rugby, he began: “They have had players like Serge Blanco who everyone has idolised.
“The French have always played really exciting rugby. We broke through and beat them in France that year in 2000 – that was a massive breakthrough in Irish rugby because the French are seen as such a big force in world rugby.
“So, I have always looked up to them. They have always got some really skilful and exciting backs and they are great to play against and I think they bring the best out of teams.
“The French side is a congregation of the best players in all of France. The Top 14 is an unbelievably tough league and as we all know physically, they are massive men with a lot of skills, so they offer a lot.”
However, McFadden remains unfazed by what lies ahead and if he can get on the ball more this weekend than he did against Italy, there is no doubt he can make his mark on the game.
“There is a real enthusiasm this week again and if we just get a few small things right, like small handling errors…I think there has been a big deal made over a few small things, small tweaks made and I think there can be a lot of improvement.”
France opened their campaign with a stylish 34-21 victory over Scotland and McFadden feels Ireland can learn from where the Scots went wrong.
“I thought Scotland did well to hang in there. They turned over the ball three or four times and France just punished them. We are going to be aware (of that) this week.
“We can’t afford to turn over the ball like we did against Italy or we are going to be punished badly. They have got these open field runners who can score tries from nothing against the best teams.”
On Sunday afternoon, his direct opponents will be Maxime Medard. He rates the Toulouse star highly, but knows there are weaknesses there to be exposed.
“He scored a try against Scotland. He is very quick and can also play at full-back as well. They have a wealth of experience and talent in the back-three,” he said.
“There are a few people not making it – Vincent Clerc and these fellas who aren’t even getting in the team. They are not struggling for talent in that area of the pitch.
“It’s really exciting for me to be marking him (Medard). I know he is a good player and I have watched him a lot with Toulouse.”
McFadden added: “In the Championship, just talking to a couple of guys, playing the French is one of the best Test matches you can play in.
“There is a real excitement around the fixture. They are a really strong team and we have to be at our best if we want to be able to compete against them on Sunday.”