Leinster Rugby Head Coach Matt O’Connor insists that Ian Madigan will decide whether or not he stays or goes when Johnny Sexton returns. With Sexton signing a four year IRFU contract, O’Connor stated that it will be Madigan’s decision whether he will stay at Leinster or leave. Madigan is neck-in-neck with Paddy Jackson as back-up 10 with Ireland and will be keen to cement that role ahead of the 2015 World Cup. While O’Connor added that it was unlikely, that Madigan would be let out of contract a year early, he would not keep a player that didn’t want to be at Leinster.
“That’s a decision Ian has to make,” said O’Connor on whether Madigan would be willing to sit behind Sexton. “He has got some good growth areas in his game, that he is well aware of. The fact that he has played in a number of positions, he is an unbelievable goal-kicker, he’s incredibly valuable to the squad. So from our end, we wouldn’t want him going anywhere, but he has got to make that call. If he thinks he is a genuine first choice 10 and capable of doing that, then he has a decision to make.
“It is very exciting news for us and Ireland obviously. Leinster boy, world-class 10, fantastic to have Johnny coming home. There was a little bit of disappointment obviously with regards the other 10s in the environment because Johnny is so good, but that is the nature of the game. (It is) unlikely (that Leinster would let him out of his contract a year early), but at the same time we don’t want to keep blokes that don’t want to be here. ”
Madigan looked set to get his chance when Sexton left for Racing last year, but Kiwi Jimmy Gopperth was chosen for the biggest games of Leinster’s season. Against Toulon and in four other Heineken Cup games last year, Gopperth started at out-half. Madigan started just two. Madigan was also overlooked in the Pro 12 final against Glasgow. O’Connor spoke to Gopperth and Madigan prior to the confirmation that Sexton would return and they weren’t best pleased.
“(They were) a little bit displeased, as you would be but they understand the dynamics of it and to be honest they were very, very understanding in the sense that Johnny was going to come home at some point. From that end, it was a matter of when not a matter of if.
“It’s 12 months away,” O’Connor said about his three outhalves into two positions problem. “There is a world Cup. There is a lot of rugby to be played and we see it all the time. Guys are an instant away from severe injury that has a massive impact on them, so it’s not worth worrying about at this point. We haven’t got to that point. It’s a conversation for another day.
There is a chance that Madigan might make the switch to centre, after the Blackrock player made a number of appearances at 12 last term. But Madigan didn’t start either tests in the summer for Ireland in Argentina when Head Coach Joe Schmidt looked at Darren Cave and Luke Marshall starting at 12 with Madigan replacing Sexton with 15 minutes remaining in each game. Schmidt sees him as a 10, but could Madigan make the step up to 12?
“In all the conversations I have had with Ian, you need develop into that guy, you need to develop into that bloke who manages a game in the front of the game and you got all those other attributes that he’s demonstrated so many times for us. He will only make himself better at a 12 if he nails down those one or two things that he can still work on as a front line 10.
“We’ve got that all through the squad. We have said a number of times, we need to back the environment to make sure guys want to be in the environment. From that end we would be pretty comfortable Ian would want to be here, but there will be a time when he has to make a decision in relation to position, in relation to and all those dynamics all the players in the squad are confronted with all the time.”