Do not expect Ian Madigan to buckle under the burden of expectation tomorrow after being handed the play-making role for Ireland against World Cup minnows Romania. The out-half has been dealing with it since he was a child.
Whether it was in a starring role for Blackrock College, on a gaelic football pitch with Kilmacud Crokes or the Pro12 with Leinster, Madigan has backed himself to produce the goods and repay the belief those around him have placed at his door.
Tomorrow at Wembley will be no different after Madigan was handed the reins in Johnny Sexton’s absence ahead of squad-mate Paddy Jackson.
“Working with expectation is something I have dealt with since I was 10 years old playing mini rugby,” Madigan said yesterday before the squad left St George’s Park and headed for north London.
“Driving in my car with my dad and my brother I would be, ‘I want to score five tries today’. I’d put that expectation on myself.
“That was no different than when I was playing with Kilmacud Crokes and obviously that expectation was bigger when I went to Blackrock College and obviously when you are playing with a club like Leinster the expectation is huge.
“So it is something I have a lot of experience in, a lot of expectation on me and on the team and something I feel I have to look after. It is something that I embrace going into big games. These are the big games I want to be in.”
Shaun Cronin, head sports reporter of breakingnews.ie, speaking to the Irish Examiner’s rugby correspondent Simon Lewis on Ireland’s RWC match against Romania this weekend. Video by Dan Linehan.
Playing Gaelic football may have proven a detour from his eventual career path with the oval ball but Madigan, 26, is grateful for his time with Kilmacud Crokes and the friendships it has given him with team-mates and opponents who are now All-Ireland champions with Dublin.
“Cian (O’Sullivan) was a year ahead of me in school, (Michael Darragh) Mcauley was a few years ahead of me in school. I’d be good friends with Rory O’Carroll, I played with Rory in Croker. I was marked by Jonny Cooper, I was good friends with Paul Flynn so I would stay in close contact with the Dublin lads.
“I love to watch the gaelic, football and hurling, regardless of who is playing. It was really tough conditions at the weekend (in Dublin’s All-Ireland final win over Kerry). It was a really tense game and I always learn something whenever I catch up and hear about the training they are doing and how professional they are.
“They are a phenomenal group, both the hurlers and the footballers.”
What he shares with them are those high expectations, as well as the experience to have delivered even when things might not have started so well.
“There has been plenty of games, sure, even a league game a few years ago against Connacht in the Pro12. I got blocked down early and they got a penalty early and before we knew it were 10-0 down in the RDS. I remember standing in behind the posts and I’d been guilty, I’d been blocked down and they had scored a try.
“I remember just being unbelievably calm behind the posts. I think Leo was our captain, we simply said we would go back to our process, stick to the game-plan we had for the game and we just slowly got ticking away on the scoreboard and in the second-half we managed to grind out a good win so if things don’t start well I am am not going to start panicking.”
Nor is Madigan fazed by the prospect of spending some time deputising in the other half-back position having been nominated by Joe Schmidt as the player to cover the scrum-halves in the absence of a third number nine when the Ireland head coach unveiled his World Cup squad at the start of this month.
With Eoin Reddan at scrum-half tomorrow, and Conor Murray named on the bench, Schmidt outlined a scenario where Jackson comes on for the starting nine and Madigan switches inside for a spell.
“Joe is great at giving you heads up early in the week. For me if it was a one-off week where suddenly you are covering two spots and you are used to covering just one then it might be a bit daunting then but for me I have done it for the last three or four years where I have had to cover out-half and centre, out-half and full-back and even out-half and scrum-half. It’s no different for me this week. It’s not something I feel daunted by.”
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