By Simon Lewis
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt revealed using Ian Madigan as a back-up scrum-half had been at the back of his mind since last season as he explained his reasoning for taking just two specialist number nines to this month's World Cup.
Schmidt had sprung a surprise in his squad selection by naming just Conor Murray and Eoin Reddan for the campaign which starts on September 19 with a Pool D game against Canada.
Ian Madigan has previously covered at full-back and inside centre.
That allowed him to take an extra outside back in his 31-man squad but leaves Ireland potentially in trouble if either Murray or Reddan was injured.
Step forward Madigan, ostensibly a fly-half but who has covered at full-back and inside centre for Schmidt throughout his two-year tenure and before that with Leinster. Madigan now has a future as an auxiliary scrum-half and the head coach explained: “It was in the back of our minds, probably not in the forefront.
“I spoke to Ian about it last season, so it's not suddenly something,” Schmidt said. “Ian did some work on it in the off-season, so he's been quietly preparing himself for that potentially to happen.
"It wasn't what we were going to do but we had a few discussions with players about potentially covering different positions because we knew we couldn't have total coverage with 31 players.”
Asked whether it was a calculated risk having Madigan cover scrum-half, Schmidt added it was “potentially, something we will sort through, he has done individual training, not with the team, but in the last week he has done.
“I'd like to think it's calculated and we've given it as much thought as we could, we just felt it allowed us a bit more flexibility further out.”
Isaac Boss and Kieran Marmion are the specialists who will feel most aggrieved at the decision but their misfortune was Ulster centre Darren Cave's bonus as he was a surprise inclusion to provide extra cover in midfield after Schmidt and his coaching team deliberated on the make-up of the squad for six hours on Sunday.
“I guess the difficulty in taking effectively six halves (three fly-halves and three scrum-halves) is that limits the coverage you have elsewhere,” Schmidt said “There is a degree of risk no matter what you've got and we feel it's something we can manage with the cover we have got. There are super resources here.”