Versatility stands to Ian Madigan says Leinster boss Leo Cullen

Leo Cullen believes Ian Madigan’s versatility, far from being a weight around his neck at Leinster, is actually benefiting the 26-year-old who has been the subject of rumoured interest from Harlequins and Bristol.

Versatility stands to Ian Madigan says Leinster boss Leo Cullen

Madigan’s contract is up this summer and, with Jonathan Sexton back with the province after a two-year sojourn in Paris, it looks certain that the younger man will continue to slot in at various points around the back line for the foreseeable future.

Cullen stated yesterday that he envisages Madigan continuing to play at both 10 and 12, as he has done for Ireland as well. He filled in at full-back against Wasps two weeks ago, remained on the bench for the 80 minutes against Bath and wears 12 against Ulster at the RDS tonight.

“It gets him picked more often, is the reality,” said Cullen of that versatility. “Even though he played as a 12 primarily for Leinster last year, he still stepped in at 10 when Johnny went down at the World Cup, so is it holding him back? Probably not, would be my viewpoint on it.”

Madigan is one of eight personnel changes made from the European loss to Bath for tonight’s visit of Ulster to the RDS in the Guinness PRO12, and there are other positional switches besides, as the head coach continues to search for his best team.

As always, it is a side shaped in large part by availability and both Sean O’Brien and Richardt Strauss are again ruled out as they continue to observe return-to-play protocols after the head knocks they shipped a fortnight back against Wasps.

Isa Nacewa, Dave Kearney and Fergus McFadden are being rested while there was bad news concerning back-row Jack Conan whose foot and ankle issues are worse than first reported and who will now miss three months.

Rob Kearney returns from a hamstring issue while those calling for youth to be given its head will be pleased to see Luke McGrath start at nine and Tadhg Furlong at tighthead while Josh van der Flier gets to build on his try-scoring cameo against Bath with a start at seven.

The RDS awaits a response.

“We’ve lost two weeks in a row so we came in on Monday and it wasn’t a particularly nice place to be,” said Rob Kearney. “People are pissed off with each other. Everyone wants to get back on track and when you lose games like that, it hurts.”

LEINSTER:

Kearney; Z Kirchner, Ben Te’o, I Madigan, L Fitzgerald; J Sexton, L McGrath; J McGrath, S Cronin, T Furlong; D Toner, M McCarthy; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Heaslip.

Replacements:

J Tracy, P Dooley, M Moore, R Molony, D Ryan, E Reddan, N Reid, G Ringrose.

ULSTER:

P Nelson; A Trimble, D Cave, S McCloskey, C Gilroy; P Jackson, R Pienaar; K McCall, R Best, W Herbst, I Henderson, D Tuohy; R Diack, S Riedy, N Williams.

Replacements:

R Herring, A Warwick, R Lutton, R Wilson, C Henry, P Marshall, I Humphreys, L Ludik.

Referee:

J Lacey (IRFU).

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