IAN MADIGAN FLOURISHED in the injury-related absence of Jonny Sexton last season. He played 32 times, making 25 starts, and scored a personal record of 233 points. This season, following Sexton’s departure and Jimmy Gopperth’s arrival, he has played 25 times [14 starts] and contributed 152 points.
The out-half has scored two tries all season, compared to nine in 2012/13. The fact that one of those tries was the match-winning in the last four clash with Ulster gives fans hope that Madigan can make an impact off the bench, against Glasgow Warriors, this evening.
At Friday’s final press briefing before today’s Grand Final, Leinster coach Matt O’Connor was asked why Madigan had not made it into the No.10 jersey for ‘big games’. The Australia responded: “I wouldn’t say [he has missed] most of the big games. He has played a lot more rugby than he has played in previous years. He has played a hell of a lot of rugby at 10.
“He has developed nicely in that spot. He is going on the Argentina tour which is another opportunity for him to develop at that level. It is a steep learning curve when you are in an environment that expects so much and you need to deliver on that when the primary focus is on you as a player maker. In that regard he has coped with it very well.
“It is a learning process. He’s going to get better. he is going to continue to develop the more he plays.”
While Madigan may be frustrated at the lack of a starting role, Warriors go into battle this evening without either Stuart Hogg or Duncan Weir in their matchday 23. Gregor Townsend, their coach, admits it was a difficult decision to leave the goal-kicking fullback out of his squad. Add Ryan Grant, who is on the bench, to the conversation and Townsend’s side face Leinster with only two [Sean Maitland and Chris Cusiter] of his four Lions.
Townsend said, “We have a number of players who have missed out on selection that feel they should be in the team that have been playing well. We used 36 players in our nine games winning run and most of those players have played really well. It was one of those tough decisions.”
“[Stuart] will be playing with Glasgow next season… He’s contracted to us so he will be playing with Glasgow.”
The best Townsend, a former Scottish international, ever achieved in his playing career was a semi final. That trend continued when he took up coaching so he is understandably relishing his first tilt at a winner-takes-all trophy contest.
He declared, “I’ve only been here the last two years, but before that all the senior players and the coaching staff there took Glasgow to a position where they were vying for semi-finals consistently. That’s four out of the last five seasons, and now to get into a final is a great achievement, but we’ve got one game to go. We’re all excited and we can’t to throw everything at Leinster.”
– Additional reporting by Murray Kinsella