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Dublin: 11°C Wednesday 12 May 2021
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Gibbes: Madigan learning full-back ropes quickly

“It started off as a little bit of a stop-gap but I think he’s shown in each a little bit more understanding and improvement,” Leinster coach Jono Gibbes says on Ian Madigan’s new role.

Ian Madigan in action against Exeter.
Ian Madigan in action against Exeter.
Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

IAN MADIGAN’S RUGBY smarts have seen him grow quickly into a dependable option at full-back, coach Jono Gibbes says.

What started as a stop-gap measure prompted by Rob Kearney’s back injury has become a more familiar sight and for a third successive game, Madigan donned the number 15 jersey in Saturday’s Heineken Cup win against Scarlets.

In the past Isa Nacewa has traditionally deputised in Kearney’s absence, but with his squad returning to full strength, head coach Joe Schmidt decided against a reshuffle in the backs and left Nacewa on the wing for the trip to Parc y Scarlets.

Madigan was sin-binned late on as Leinster won 20-13, further extending their unbeaten European run. By spending time at both out-half and full-back in the early part of this season, the 23-year-old has developed a strong understanding of how the back line ticks, Gibbes says.

“To be fair to Mads, he’s stepped in there and I think he’s grown in that position in each game. He’s got a better understanding of it.

“Obviously when Jonny’s not playing, he’s in that 10 position so he’s got a lot of understanding of how we’re trying to play. Having him on the field as well as Jonny, there’s a good bit of brains out there. He can see things from the back to feed in. He’s got a good kicking game, he’s very confident under the high ball and he’s brave on defence.

It started off as a little bit of a stop-gap but I think he’s shown in each a little bit more understanding and improvement.

Attention now returns to the RaboDirect Pro12 as the Cardiff Blues, still smarting from their European defeat against Toulon, visit the RDS this Saturday. Leinster dominated at the breakdown for large parts against the Scarlets and Gibbes hopes that the improvements shown continue in the side’s next Welsh test.

“It was definitely an area that we were very disappointed with in the Exeter game. I think we just weren’t clinical enough, we were a bit high and Exeter, dogged as they were, they kind of had it on their terms.

“I thought the Scarlets game was good in that we were a little bit more proactive, looking to control things a little bit rather than reacting. I think that was positive.

“It wasn’t perfect by any means. We coughed up a little bit of ball in contact that cost us a bit of flow but it was a step forward. I think this week, Warburton, Navidi, Pretorius, Brad Davies, they’ll put pressure on our breakdown so we’ve got to keep building.”

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Niall Kelly

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