FERGUS MCFADDEN HAS Argentina in the back of his mind but first and foremost, seeing off the challenge of Ulster on Saturday evening is the focus for the Leinster wing.
A place in the RaboDirect Pro12 final awaits the victors of the clash at the RDS this weekend, with McFadden admitting he and his teammates are very aware that a repeat of the performance against Edinburgh last time out will see them eliminated.
“We were definitely disappointed with it. A full house showed up with it being Leo and Drico’s last calender game for this season. It was a disappointing performance, but we still got the win and I just think maybe it was a kick up the backside before a make-or-break game against Ulster this weekend.
I actually thought the guys played well against Treviso and Ulster in the previous matches. It was probably a step down in our standards against Edinburgh. If we produce that against Ulster, we’ll lose.”
McFadden made his comeback from a knee injury in the 15-13 success last Saturday, and says with some relief that he “got through fine, thank God.” Nearing full fitness again, the 27-year-old is hoping to see more of the ball against Ulster.
Finishing any chances that come his way in a clinical fashion may be key in what should be another tightly-contested inter-provincial encounter. McFadden points to Ulster’s win against Munster last weekend as a marker of where the northern province stands.
“In fairness, they fielded pretty much a second string side there [in Limerick], so it shows where their squad is at the moment. It was a real statement for them to send that team down there and still win, pretty impressive.
“Also, there’s the fact that their first-string players are going to be very fresh this weekend after the rest weekend, so it’s going to be a tough turnaround. But this is where you want to be, in the final stages of the business end of the season.”
From a Leinster point of view, there has been some questioning of Matt O’Connor’s game plan and coaching, but McFadden points out that not too much has changed since Joe Schmidt left the province.
He puts a lot of focus on your passing – similar to Joe – your skills, your decision-making. Basic skills, decision-making and your work-rate. He values that a lot off the ball; creating space for others around you is a big part of what he tries to do.”
Speaking of Schmidt, McFadden is hopeful of being part of the Kiwi’s squad on the tour to Argentina next month.
“I’d love to be over there playing in one of those Tests or being considered to go over there with Ireland. That’s the aim. Thankfully, I’m back fit now and I can just try and play well.
“Every time you play for Ireland is an absolute pleasure and there are two more caps on offer there. I’d bite Joe’s hand off if I got the opportunity to go. As I said, all I can do is control my performance and try to put myself in the shop window.”