Cullen and Schmidt endorse converted fullback Madigan for Ireland role

The 23-year-old out-half could make yet his international debut in an unfamiliar role.

Ian Madigan has played fullback five times for Leinster this season.
Ian Madigan has played fullback five times for Leinster this season.
Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

THE LOSS OF Rob Kearney will be keenly felt when Argentina and, particularly, South Africa give the ball some fresh air at the Aviva Stadium in November.

However, the emergence of a young Leinster out-half into the fullback role may yet give the international visitors some headaches of their own.

Having just started to provide a genuine threat to Jonny Sexton for the number 10 jersey at Leinster, Ian Madigan could be starting alongside his provincial teammate wearing 15 – the last man home.

The 23-year-old scored his third try of the season, in his ninth successive game, and played a pivotal role in scores for Dave Kearney and Damien Browne.

He did not have to face too much of an aerial bombardment – Cardiff Blues had so little ball that they dared not hoof it away – but his defensive game looked solid.

Ireland coach Declan Kidney indicated last week that the current batch of Pro12 games were being used as a proving ground for fullback contenders, with the likely lads being Madigan, Felix Jones and the previously selected Tommy Bowe.

“I think he is definitely worth a look,” Leinster captain Leo Cullen told

“He has been performing pretty well and was unfortunate to miss out (on initial selection) but there are always situations where there are close calls. Mads has probably been one of our best performers this season.”

Not quite a flanker, yet

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt felt it was not his place to ‘speculate on the national camp’ but he was happy to talk about the growing importance of Madigan to the Leinster cause.

“We threw him in (at fullback) against Treviso,” he said. “Positionally, he was a bit of a fish out of water. Each time, I think, he has grown a little more confidence about where he needs to be and what his role is.” Schmidt added:

I thought that a couple of times, defensively, he met his attacker, as the last defender, really, really well. Once in the far corner and once down the near-side touch. I thought he did a superb job.

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Schmidt described Madigan, who earned an Ireland Wolfhounds cap earlier in the year, as ‘a kid that just wants to play footie’.

He commented, “It’s probably not as bad as Isaac Boss playing flanker tonight but he has played 12 and 13 for us, he’s obviously played 10. At one stage he was covering half-back, scrum-half, fullback.

“He’s got a great skill set that allows him to be very flexible wherever he plays.”

With Ronan O’Gara missing out on game-time for Munster on Friday, calling up Madigan would provide cover at out-half and a possible start against the Springboks.

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Patrick McCarry

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