'You heard the likes of Darce and Drico talking about it when you were in your mid-20s'

Fergus McFadden has been rejuvenated this season and has returned to the Ireland set-up.

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It’s often been said that locks play their best rugby in the second half of their career, but a couple of wide men in Ireland’s squad are suggesting that turning 30 is a sign of good things to come.

Fergus McFadden and Robbie Henshaw celebrate winning Fergus McFadden celebrates Ireland's win in France with Robbie Henshaw. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Keith Earls is in some of the finest form of his career, while Leinster’s Fergus McFadden has been enjoying a superb season in which his form has returned to a peak.

The 31-year-old came off the bench for Ireland in Paris in round one of the Six Nations to make a couple of important contributions in the final passage, while he is expected to feature in the matchday 23 to face Wales next weekend, having remained with Ireland for their mini-camp in Athlone this week, rather than returning to Leinster.

McFadden’s hot streak of form took in the back-to-back Champions Cup ties with Exeter Chiefs in December, as well as the Christmas inter-provincials and he is happy to be feeling so good now that he’s back in the Ireland mix too.

“It’s been a combination of staying fit and I suppose getting a bit of confidence back after getting a four or five-game block in big matches,” says McFadden of his recent good run.

“I think the coaches have backed me in Leinster in the big games particularly, and I suppose I’ve proved my worth over a few weeks there. So it was nice to get the confidence back and get back to playing at the level I can.

“Now that I’m in here, I’m looking to be involved as much as possible and trying to break into the team.”

Earls has spoken about how he has benefited from adapting his training schedule, having learned exactly what works best for his body.

And McFadden has found something similar with the wisdom of experience, allowing his athleticism to shine again – with his pace and footwork impressing this season.

Fergus McFadden McFadden remained with Ireland this week. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“There are small things I’ve been focusing on, I suppose I’m at an age now where I’ve got to be a lot more conscious about my recovery and how I take care of myself, and that’s something that I’ve addressed this year, definitely,” says McFadden.

“You always heard the likes of Darce [Gordan D'Arcy] and Drico [Brian O'Driscoll] talking about it when you were in your mid-20s, and you were kind of thinking, ‘That’s never going to be me’, you know?

“But then when you get on, it’s just about listening to your body.

“It’s a bit of a silly thing to say but it’s true, people can preach to you all you want, but until you get the experiences yourself… as Keith has said and it’s very true, it’s knowing what’s right for you as an individual and I suppose I’ve come to a point where I know what’s working for me.”

Before the involvement off the bench against France three weekends ago, McFadden’s most recent Test experience had come against Scotland in the 2016 Six Nations.

“Too long” is how he terms that gap between caps number 32 and 33, so to play a part in the incredible build-up to Johnny Sexton’s winning drop goal in France was a nice way to return.

“I probably would have liked more time but it was such a tight game at that stage, I was just happy to come on and fit in, really,” says McFadden.

“I thought obviously those 41 phases put together was a really good squad effort.

“The forwards did a lot of work throughout the 80 minutes so I was just looking to get my hands on the ball, obviously I was fresh legs coming onto the pitch so whether it was resourcing rucks or carrying to get a bit of the pressure off the forwards, I was just trying to get in there and get the ball.”

Peter O’Mahony and Fergus McFadden celebrate McFadden celebrates with Peter O'Mahony. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

McFadden says he was delighted to see provincial team-mate Jordan Larmour make his debut last weekend against Italy as he returned to Leinster duty, but he won’t be too keen on missing out on the rest of the Six Nations action.

With two wins from two, Ireland are in good shape ahead of the visit of Wales.

“Every game is like a cup final now,” says McFadden. “Getting over that game in France, people would have thought we should win that as well but going to Paris, I think we’d only won there three times before that game in 40, 50 years.

“So that was a great win for us and then the Italian game, we were expected to get four points from that, which we did, but essentially the championship is only starting for us now.

“We’ve got our toughest games, probably, to go, with Wales coming, Scotland and leading to what could be a brilliant game on Paddy’s Day for winner-takes-all against England.

“We’ll take one game at a time but this Welsh team are going to be a big threat so we’ll have to get a good week’s training under our belts next week leading into that.”

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