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The Ball Is In Our Court – McFadden

The Ball Is In Our Court – McFadden

Fergus McFadden insists that Ireland are in pole position for the RBS 6 Nations title following their 46-7 demolition of Italy.

A victory away to France next Saturday is likely to see Ireland crowned champions as they have a +49 points scored advantage over England, who face Italy in Rome earlier in the day.

Fergus McFadden was one of three replacements to get on the scoresheet against Italy and with many of the current squad not having been part of the 2009 Grand Slam success, he says they are hungry for success in the Irish jersey.

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Speaking after the 46-7 defeat of Italy which keeps Ireland in first place, McFadden insisted: “The ball is in our court. I haven’t been part of an Irish team that has gone to France and beaten them in Paris, so it’s a huge challenge regardless of how they played against Scotland or how they have been playing. They don’t give up losses to teams easily over there.

“Lots of lads will be putting their hands up for selection. Guys who came off the bench definitely did that. Hopefully we have given Joe (Schmidt) a bit of a headache for selection next week.”

As McFadden waited to replace Brian O’Driscoll around the hour mark against the Azzurri, he mentioned to fourth official Alain Rolland that he was expecting a ‘nice little cheer’ as he came on.

The Kildare native showed his sense of humour yesterday too when tweeting: “That standing ovation I got coming off the bench was amazing. #Thanks”.

The ovation for O’Driscoll was fully deserved as was his accolade for a man-of-the-match performance in his final home game in green.

“He created three tries, defended very well and had a couple of key turnovers on the ground, one in the second half there when he got a bit of pressure off,” said McFadden of his Leinster colleague.

“He is still playing great stuff and it would be brilliant if we could just top it off with silverware. I haven’t won anything in an Irish jersey and lots of us haven’t so we are well aware of that and it’s a massive challenge next week.”

McFadden, who ran in his ninth Test try with two minutes remaining, said O’Driscoll – now the most-capped player in Irish, Six Nations and world rugby – holds a special place in the hearts of the nation.

“He holds a massive place in Irish hearts as a sportsman and as an icon for the country. He has done so much for the game and it was a fitting finish that he wrapped up man-of-the-match after 60 minutes as well. It was a great performance by him.

“He has got a massive heart. People often go on about his silky skills and creating bits of genius which he does have but he has a massive heart and massive fight. If you have those things you can go a long way as being a successful rugby player.”

McFadden referenced the hype in the media and on social networks regarding O’Driscoll’s milestone match and paid tribute to head coach Schmidt who referred to the retiring centre as ‘the magician’.

“Everyone would look at some of the stuff Brian does and try to replicate it but I’ve got my own strengths I concentrate on. I have learnt stuff from him over the years and he is great to play alongside,” added the 25-times capped outside back.

“I’m sure it will be strange for him (when he gives up playing). He’s been playing high level rugby for 15 years.

“Obviously he has his last two games for Ireland at international level but he does have the business end of a season for Leinster too. There are plenty of games left in Brian so I don’t think we should panic just yet.”