Coetzee will leave Ulster at the end of the current season. Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Madigan says Ulster's players understand Coetzee's decision to leave

The South African will join the Blue Bulls next summer.

IAN MADIGAN SAID that Marcell Coetzee addressed his Ulster team-mates last week and explained the reasons behind his decision to return to South Africa a year early.

The talismanic row will join the Blue Bulls next summer after Ulster agreed to release him from his contract, which had been due to run until 2022.

Madigan said that the squad can appreciate the rationale behind the Springbok’s decision and that it is now up to Ulster to move on and continue their winning run in the Pro14 with derby clashes against Munster and Leinster coming up.

He said that Coetzee’s announcement after losing their Heineken Champions Cup clashes to Toulouse and Gloucester didn’t derail their drive to bounce back from those defeats when heading to play Connacht on Sunday in Galway, where they extended their winning start to the league to nine games.

“It is important but there are two ways of looking at it,” said Madigan. “You’re on the way to three defeats in a row and a marquee player is leaving the club.

“Or you could say, look, we know we were very close. We could have won two European games. We didn’t but we know we could have.

“And internally we know what is happening with Marcell. Every player within the club has the utmost respect for him. He came in during the week when he was injured, he stepped up and spoke very well.

“We all understand that. It’s his home country. He’s a guy who comes in every day and gives 100% in training and on the field. We get that. We know this is a collective and our group is very strong.

“There are great young guys coming through, the likes of Dave McCann ready to step up. Look, roll on. We knew it was an important game (against Connacht), guys stepped up and it was a very satisfying one.”

Madigan was in superb form, landing eight kicks from nine on a typically wet and blustery night at the Sportsground with his 22-point haul driving them to a 32-19 comeback win.

And the 31-year old, who won the last of his 30 Test caps off the bench against South Africa in 2016, hasn’t given up on an Irish recall after returning home this season to join Ulster after three seasons with Bristol Bears and a campaign with Bordeaux Begles.

ian-madigan-celebrates-winning Madigan was excellent last weekend against Connacht. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“Every player who is eligible for Ireland, their number one goal has to be representing their country otherwise you won’t be competitive. I knew that time was ticking and I had to come back here if I wanted to play for Ireland again. It had to be sooner rather than later.

“Obviously there are challenges. Billy (Burns) is going well, he’s a quality player. There are plenty of other good out-halves in Ireland. But when I get my opportunities, I just want to go out there and give it my best. I’m not going to shirk away from the goal, I want to play for Ireland.

“There’s a lot of work that has to go in to make that happen. I’m working hard every day. If the call comes, great. But If it doesn’t, at least I know I’ve been true to myself. I’ve worked really hard to do my best to try and get in.

“Andy Farrell has spoken to me, it was nice to get the confidence boost at the start of the season to name-check me in the media. That was nice to get that from the national coach when you’ve been away for a couple of years. He’s been keeping a close eye, talking to the Ulster guys in the Irish set-up about game plans, and how they are defending and attacking. So it’s been keeping in touch that way.

“I think off the back of the Scotland performance, the team will go into the Six Nations against Wales with confidence. It will be a challenging game but with the Irish provinces doing well, there’s no reason why Ireland can’t be doing well.”

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