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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Madigan: These Are The Big Games I Want To Be In

Madigan: These Are The Big Games I Want To Be In

Ian Madigan is embracing the high expectations on his shoulders as he looks forward to his play-making role in tomorrow’s Rugby World Cup clash with Romania.

The number 10 jersey is famous in many sports, but particularly rugby given the influence that an out-half can have on a game. Going back through Ireland’s 31 Rugby World Cup matches since 1987, only eight players have been the starting out-half in a RWC fixture:

1987 – Paul Dean, Tony Ward
1991 – Ralph Keyes
1995 – Eric Elwood, Paul Burke
1999 – David Humphreys, Eric Elwood
2003 – David Humphreys, Ronan O’Gara
2007 – Ronan O’Gara
2011 – Jonathan Sexton, Ronan O’Gara
2015 – Jonathan Sexton

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Ian Madigan will follow in their footsteps tomorrow afternoon at Wembley Stadium, looking to build on Ireland’s opening pool win over Canada which included a lively 25-minute cameo from the Dubliner off the bench.

Having got the nod over Paddy Jackson for his first World Cup start, Madigan said: “It’s a big lift but I don’t use selection to compare myself to other players. I view it as an opportunity for myself to start a game in a World Cup. It’s a dream of mine to be presented with this opportunity.

“If I had been picked to come off the bench, or I wasn’t selected to be in the 23, then I’d deal with that on an individual basis. I wouldn’t be looking at who is starting. It’s about what I can control and, for me, that’s going out and leading the team around the pitch and doing my best to make the players around me look as good as possible.”

Jonathan Sexton, the man Madigan is replacing this week, produced a man-of-the-match performance against Canada, and his Leinster team-mate is quietly confident he can maintain the high standards set by Sexton in the play-making position.

Last season’s Champions Cup top scorer and PRO12 Golden Boot winner admitted: “Working with expectation is something I’ve dealt with since I was 10-years-old playing mini rugby. Driving in the car with my dad and my brother I would be saying: ‘I want to score five tries today’. I’d put that expectation on myself.

“That was no different than when I was playing (Gaelic football) with Kilmacud Crokes, and obviously that expectation was bigger when I went to Blackrock College and obviously the expectation is huge when you are playing with a team like Leinster.

“So, it’s something I have a lot of experience in, a lot of expectation on me and on the team and something I feel I have to look after. It’s something that I embrace going into big games. These are the big games I want to be in.”

Madigan certainly made an impact as a replacement in the Pool D opener in Cardiff, with his brilliant midfield break teeing up Jared Payne for Ireland’s seventh and final try. He also opened his scoring account for the tournament with three conversions.

He praised centre Payne as ‘a brilliant player’ and ‘one of those guys you just want to get the ball into his hands’. “Jared’s going to make the right decision nine times out of ten and is a very, very good defender,” he continued.

“He’s one of the guys who really controls the defence, guides the forwards and he’s very comfortable in the wide channels. He’s got good pace so he has no problem showing a guy the outside and tracking him down and if someone runs hard at his inside shoulder, he’s very strong.

“He’s a very well-rounded player and it’s very nice for me going into a game and having someone of his experience outside me.”

Madigan may end up playing closer to the scrum if Ireland are in a comfortable lead against the Romanians. Head coach Joe Schmidt spoke yesterday about the possibility of the 26-year-old getting some game-time at scrum half – a position the versatile back is able to cover.

“It is one thing that we might do. We want to get him (Madigan) a bit of game-time at 10 as well, and we want Paddy to get a bit of game time as well. We’ll do one of two things, I guess,” explained Schmidt.

“We’ll let Eoin (Reddan) continue and withdraw Ian and put Paddy out. We’ve got Conor (Murray) on the bench, who can come into nine anyway, so we feel like we’ve got really good cover at nine and 10 anyway, and if the game is going at a direction where we think Ian would benefit from 15 minutes at nine, then that’s possible.”

Making the switch inside is not one that fazes Madigan given his footballing ability and the quality of his passing. With a good deal of training in the position behind him and some instructive advice from his older brother David and also Reddan and Murray, he feels it is a role he can fulfil.

“If it happens in a big game you have got to really trust the guys around you. A big part of playing scrum half is playing within what you have prepared that week, listening to your out-half, listening to the forwards around you and if I go in with the mentality that I am going to do the basics well and listen to the guys around me, I’d be confident that I would be able to do the job sufficiently well,” said the Leinster ace.

“Myself and Dave (my brother) played AIL together for Blackrock, he played scrum half and I played out-half. I had some good conversations with him during the summer, he was just going through the fundamentals and what he thought was important and he gave me some pointers on what he used to rely on when he felt under pressure.

“Simple things with passing and box kicking. I have had some great chats with Eoin and Conor as well. They have been generous with their time and given me advice. When I was away on holiday with Dave I had the ball out, practicing off the base, and he was giving me a few tips just like the old days back in school.

“I have done it for the last three or four years where I have had to cover out-half and centre, out-half and full-back and even out-half and scrum half. It’s no different for me this week (covering an extra position). It’s not something I feel daunted by.”