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Madigan: 'ROG always stepped up to the plate and he always executed too'

The Leinster out-half explains what goes into being a replacement in Joe Schmidt’s match day 23.

WE’VE HEARD MUCH about the importance Joe Schmidt places on his bench players being equally as prepared as his starters.

Ian Madigan Madigan fully buys into the demands on subs in Schmidt's Ireland set-up. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The impression is that there will once again be just as much pressure on those outside the 15 as on the men who take to the pitch for kick-off tomorrow at the Millenium Stadium.

Tactical kicking decisions, missed opportunities with ball in hand, how the opposition defence is lining up, where the lineout looks weak; Schmidt wants his eight replacements to live each important moment as much as the starting players do.

It’s a role Ian Madigan has become accustomed to in his international career so far, given that only three of his 16 caps have been as a starter.

“It can be difficult, it’s something that you learn over time,” says the Leinster out-half of the difficulty of settling into a game after coming off the bench.

Your first involvement is very important to calm your nerves and settle you down.”

With that in mind, Madigan was disappointed to fire a kick into touch on the full against England shortly after replacing Johnny Sexton in the round three victory over England, but he points out that it’s not something on which he would have wholly based his evaluation of his performance levels.

The short time frame replacement players get to impress can magnify any errors, but Madigan says you’ve got to assesses a wider picture.

“If you do make a mistake you don’t want to leave on it, because it’s a small window of time on the pitch and it’s very important to make the most of it.

Ian Madigan Madigan has been used off the bench in all three Six Nations games so far. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I wouldn’t review one individual game off the bench too much though, I’d review three or four and have a look overall at what I’d done, because you’ve got a bigger pool to take from.”

There is, of course, a degree of frustration in not being in Ireland’s starting team, the same is true of any player in the squad whose jersey doesn’t bear a number from one to 15.

But Madigan insists that it is “an absolute privilege to be on the bench for Ireland.

“I value being called off the bench to go and play, and the chance to do what’s best for your team, it’s just as simple as that.”

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The 25-year-old buys into the role with utter conviction, he explains, often watching the game unfold from behind the posts as he keeps warm, attempting to “get a good feel of what they [the opposition] are doing, how they are filling their front line or who they have in the backfield.”

Madigan highlights Robbie Henshaw’s try against the English as one moment where he and his fellow replacements briefly lost focus, “jumping up and down just like everyone else in the stadium.”

Much of their time waiting to be called upon is spent attempting to analyse the game as it happens.

“The guys on the bench would often be very much together and talking our way through the game and discussing what might work. We’re very much a team within a team; if you see someone else getting called onto the field, it’s always massive encouragement.”

Ian Madigan Madigan has confidence in his kicking ability. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Schmidt might hope that his general Johnny Sexton gets through the entire 80 minutes, but it seems more likely that Madigan will again be called upon tomorrow at the Millenium Stadium.

If that proves to be the case, Madigan has an excellent place-kicking record to provide confidence should he be tasked with kicking a winning penalty or conversion.

“It’s basically gone well, it’s something I’ve worked hard on with Richie Murphy over the last few years,” says Madigan of his ability off the tee. “If I do miss one in a game I generally know why and am able to correct that during a match, which is nice to fall back on.”

And what if he is asked to repeat Ronan O’Gara’s exploits in Cardiff in 2009, when a drop goal proved to be the Grand Slam-clinching score?

“What ROG did back in ’09 was incredible, he was never afraid of stepping up to the plate. He did it so many times for Munster and Ireland and not only did he step up to the plate but he always executed on it too.

“If the time comes in the game and I’m on, I’d like to think I would be someone who would put their hand up in a situation like that. And the work I’ve done in training this week and the season will hopefully stand me in good stead.”

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Murray Kinsella

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