Ian Madigan admits to fears that he could slip out of Joe Schmidt’s World Cup plans, what with two of his main rivals for a place in the squad set to benefit from the opportunity to display their wares in the Pro12 play-offs.
Munster’s Ian Keatley and Ulster’s Paddy Jackson will both feature prominently in the play-off ties, against Ospreys and Glasgow respectively, while Madigan and the rest of his Leinster teammates make do with an unwanted weekend off after a fifth-placed league finish.
“All professional players are naturally worriers,” said Madigan at the launch yesterday of Ireland’s official range of Canterbury training wear for the World Cup and beyond. “I definitely would (worry), but for me it is about controlling the controllables.
“That is getting into the gym, working on my strength, getting out onto the field and practising my kicking, my passing and working as close as I can with Joe to do what he wants done in matches.
“That’s all I can control. I can’t do anything about Ian and Paddy this weekend. That’s up to them. I can just make the most of the week I have this week and keep improving as a player.” Leinster players of an earlier vintage spoke in the past about avoiding finals on TV when rival provinces were involved but Madigan is an avid spectator and will tune in to the final four games to study not just his Irish rivals but the likes of Dan Biggar as well.
The time to switch off will come between May 28 and June 28 when the top tier of Irish internationals are handed their holidays but work goes on for now with the likes of Madigan busy preparing for the Ireland-Barbarians game in Limerick on May 28. Low-key though that game is, it will nonetheless provide a last chance to audition before the extended squad is named by Schmidt and the IRFU some time in mid-June.
“With the World Cup only around the corner it is about making the most of every opportunity you can get,” said Madigan. “The likes of Paddy and Ian will have their opportunities this weekend in the semi-finals and hopefully my opportunity will come against the Barbarians.
“It is very important that you put your best foot forward with the break just around the corner because that is the impression you are going to be leaving with the coaches going into pre-season.
“Once that starts it’s about doing your best to impress every single day. I have had pre-seasons with Joe before at Leinster and I know that every action counts.” For the likes of Luke Fitzgerald, Sean O’Brien and Marty Moore, there won’t even be the consolation of trying to end a disappointing domestic season with Leinster on a high with Ireland against the Baa Baas.
Fitzgerald is 17 days into a 12-week rehab after surgery on a labral tear and bicep tendon, the former issue one that stretches back to a tackle he made on Munster’s Doug Howlett in the 2011 Magners League final.
“He came out of fine, he just shook it off,” said Fitzgerald who jokingly referred to himself as ‘The Bionic Man’ such has been the number of injuries and operations he has had to contend with in recent times. “I’m struggling on for five years after it.” That said, he was at pains to point out that this surgery was elective and that he is due to return to full fitness in time for Ireland’s first World Cup warm-up fixture, against Wales in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on August 8.
One result of all that is that he will not be availing of the four weeks off that Madigan and most of the other World Cup hopefuls can look forward to, but Fitzgerald was quick to play down the suggestion that it amounted to a major sacrifice.
The fact that he has yet to feature at a World Cup is well-known and yesterday wasn’t the first time he was called on to promote the team’s tournament garb. This time he plans to be wearing it when it counts. “I’m a single man so I’ll be doing a little bit of travelling on my own, unfortunately. You do need to freshen up so what I’ll do is probably head away for a couple of weekends, get a couple of days between there and now. It’ll work out fine.
“I think it’s a pretty small sacrifice. If it was one of those things where you didn’t get selected, and you looked back and said ‘I took a holiday there’, you’d shoot yourself, wouldn’t you?
“That’s very extreme, but you’d really be disappointed in yourself that you didn’t make the sacrifice to get on the biggest stage.”
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