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O'Connor: Madigan will have a decision to make next year

Will Sexton and Madigan play together or can there only be one?

A lot of people think Madigan's future could be at inside centre.
A lot of people think Madigan's future could be at inside centre.

IAN MADIGAN WILL have to decide whether or not he wants to stay at Leinster once Johnny Sexton returns, according to coach Matt O’Connor.

Since the news of Sexton’s homecoming broke, many have wondered what the future holds for the dynamic out-half currently in the Leinster squad, and O’Connor says Madigan will need to decide next year whether or not he wants to move on.

“That is a decision that Ian has to make,” O’Connor said.

“He has some growth areas in his game that he is well aware of. The fact that he can play in a number of positions and is a great goal kicker makes him extremely valuable to the squad.

“From our end, we wouldn’t want him to be going anywhere but he has got to make that call. If he thinks he is a first-choice 10 and capable of doing that then he will have a decision to make.”

O’Connor said that when he revealed the news of Sexton’s return to Madigan and Jimmy Gopperth, the out-halves were a little disappointed, but that they understood Sexton’s return was a matter of when, rather than if. Regardless, O’Connor thinks that the culture of excellence surrounding the province could influence Madigan to stay put.

“We back the environment and make sure that guys want to be in this environment,” O’Connor said.

“From that end, I’m pretty sure that Ian would want to be here. There will be a time when Ian has to make a decision with relation to position and game time.”

He continued: “That’s 12 months away. There is a World Cup and a lot of rugby to be played between now and then.”

Ian Madigan celebrates his try with Johnny Sexton 17/5/2013 Will Leinster fans see this 10-12 pairing in the future? Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

One possibility floated regularly by both fans and pundits, is the prospect of Sexton at 10 with Madigan just outside him at 12. While the potential damage done to opposition backlines by the duo could be devastating, O’Connor thinks Madigan’s play as a centre would be best served by improving his fundamentals at out-half.

“In all the conversations I’ve had with Ian it has been that he needs to develop into the bloke who manages a game and then you have got all those other attributes that he has demonstrated so many times for us,” O’Connor said.

“I think he will only make himself better as a 12 if he nails down those one or two things that he can still work on as a front-line ten.”

There were some positives on the injury front for Leinster with the news that Noel Reid won’t require surgery and should be fit in about three weeks while O’Connor was adamant that Aussie second row Kane Douglas will be available for selection before the first round of European fixtures.

The Leinster coach also responded to the stinging criticism handed to the incoming Australian from newspaper columnist Neil Francis:

“Neil must know more than me,” O’Connor deadpanned. “He is a 25-year-old test lock who plays 80 minutes every week for the Super 15 champions so there is a bit of pedigree there.”

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