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'Is he first-choice for Bordeaux?' Madigan call not on the agenda for Ireland

While Ireland began their Six Nations training last week, the former Leinster man was preparing for a replacement role in the Top 14.

IAN MADIGAN’S CLUB commitments kept him out of Ireland’s plans for the Six Nations opener, even with Jonathan Sexton ultimately ruled out with a calf injury.

The Dubliner was regularly Joe Schmidt’s preferred choice to deputise for Sexton, but his move to Bordeaux has impacted his availability for call-ups to the Irish training camps.

With Sexton set to miss the Murrayfield meeting with Scotland, Ian Keatley (who was never officially named in the 40-man squad) and versatile centre Rory Scannell are the only viable back-up options to Paddy Jackson.

Asked whether it was a concern that neither Keatley or Scannell are starting out-halves for their province, forwards coach Simon Easterby responded:

“What’s the alternative?”

To the ensuing suggestion that Ian Madigan might have been considered, Easterby’s response was sharp again.

Is he the first-choice for Bordeaux?”

Madigan is not. The former Leinster back started behind Simon Hickey for the home clash with Clermont on Sunday, kicking a late penalty as a replacement before Clermont responded to claim a 23 – 23 draw.

“Unfortunately he couldn’t be with us last weekend anyway because he was on the bench for Bordeaux against Clermont. So it compromises his position with us when he’s not playing in Ireland,” continued Easterby.

“We’re trying to support the guys who are staying here and, on the whole, that will be the case. Circumstances may allow us to look outside of that, but as it happens at the moment we’ve got three guys in.

“Mads hasn’t been selected in the squad. He couldn’t be involved last week so that didn’t help his cause.”

Paddy Jackson kicks a conversion Colm O'Neill / INPHO Colm O'Neill / INPHO / INPHO

As Paddy Jackson impressively held the reins for a full tour of South Africa and then in the November win over Australia, the prospect starting a Test match without Sexton certainly doesn’t hold the same grounds for concern as it once did.

However, the depth in that position has been hurt by injury to Joey Carbery as well as the loss of Madigan and JJ Hanrahan to overseas clubs.

Sexton’s latest injury is one of a lengthening list of concerns around the out-half, but while Easterby did not wish to offer any guarantees that the Lions out-half would return to action in time to face Italy or France, he did downplay the seriousness of the issue.

“I think any player goes through a period where they have a number of injuries. We’re fortunate we’ve good guys to come in and be competitive in that position. We’re blessed with the 10s that we have available to us.

Johnny’s unavailable and Joey Carbery is unavailable, players go through injuries and that happens. The longer we linger on it the less effective we can be.”

“Paddy has proven himself over a number of months, but also going back to the summer. He can control the side and dictate the play.

“Johnny is clearly one of the best 10s in the world, but we have to adapt. That’s one of the marks of this team, sometimes we lose key players, sometimes players in key positions. We’re fully supportive and committed to adapting to circumstances and making sure that doesn’t come up as an excuse.”

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