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Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 3 March 2021

McFadden reflects on Ireland’s crash landing under Kidney

The Leinster man is set to start on the wing against Samoa this weekend.

Fergus McFadden is hoping to win his 20th cap for Ireland this weekend.
Fergus McFadden is hoping to win his 20th cap for Ireland this weekend.
Image: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

FERGUS MCFADDEN ALWAYS harboured ambitions of wearing the 13 jerseys Brian O’Driscoll made famous for Leinster and Ireland.

In 2010, Joe Schmidt was three months into his tenure as McFadden’s coach at Leinster and starting to string results together after a difficult start. Luke Fitzgerald was injured and an away match with Clermont Auvergne loomed. Schmidt shifted McFadden onto the left wing against Scarlets to test his mettle before the pivotal Heineken Cup match.

McFadden scored a try against Scarlets and took the 11 jersey off the hook for Leinster’s 20 — 13 loss to Clermont at the Stade Marcel Michelin. McFadden, then 24, impressed in his stop-gap role. From that moment on he became ‘versatile back Fergus McFadden’. His ability to cover positions across the backline helped Leinster but hindered his outside centre hopes.

Last season saw the Kildare native focus his energies on re-establishing himself as a centre. Matt O’Connor’s arrival at Leinster looks to have shelved such ambitions for now.

He told “I’m predominantly a winger. Under Matt, and with a full deck of cards at Leinster, wing is my position. At Test level, I think Joe is looking at me as a winger. I know that if injuries happen here and there, that I can cover those positions but, primarily, I’m definitely a winger.”

McFadden and Leinster teammates Isaac Boss and Kevin McLaughlin are three players that have benefited from Schmidt’s elevation to the national set-up. The trio were often trusted for key league and cup encounters and will hope to Schmidt keys them in for game time against a physical Samoan team.

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imageMcFadden ran in a hat-trick of tries against Canada in the summer. INPHO/Billy Stickland

McFadden may well have got the start ahead of Keith Earls anyway but the Munster winger’s knee worries have kicked that can up the road. Dave Kearney and Andrew Trimble are his direct opponents for a starting role on Saturday but McFadden’s provincial form may give him the edge.

“After getting a few games under my belt [this season] I felt better; a bit more of a flow,” he said. “Coming in here I felt good but there is a massive emphasis on training well. I felt I did that well. Hopefully I’m in the mix now and not just against Samoa but we’ll see what happens.”

At 27, McFadden is hell-bent on taking his international chances and forcing his way into the first team. A hat-trick of tries against Canada, last time out, certainly helped and another strong outing should see his name in the hat to start against Australia. He is keen, too, to play his part in turning Ireland into a team of peaks and troughs to a team that can start making Test match waves again.

He commented, “Ireland have been guilty of lacking consistency in the last couple of years. Pulling out a big performance, for instance, at the start of last year’s Six Nations, against Wales in Cardiff. Then it kind of all came crashing down after that.

“We’re looking to get some consistency in our performance and if we can concentrate on some of the things that Joe is looking for us to work on. If we can do that, the November Series will hopefully be a successful one.”

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Patrick McCarry

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