No room for Madigan as Jackson is named as understudy
RUGBY:Paddy Jackson has been named as Ronan O’Gara’s understudy for Sunday’s resumption of the Six Nations against Scotland at Murrayfield.
Declan Kidney has been grooming the 21-year-old Ulster outhalf for eventual inclusion in the senior squad over the past 12 months, with Jonathan Sexton’s hamstring injury speeding up that process.
The decision to overlook Leinster’s Ian Madigan is curious when examining current form and Jackson’s lack of kicking practice. Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar was responsible for the majority of kicking duties in Ulster’s 26-3 victory over Zebre on Friday night.
Jackson has place-kicked for Ulster this season but a number of poor returns led to Pienaar re-taking full responsibility for shots at goal.
O’Gara, 36 in March, had a disappointing two from five return in Munster’s 18-10 defeat to the Scarlets in Llanelli on Saturday but remains in line to play his 130th Test match. If selected on Wednesday, it would be the Cork man’s 88th start for Ireland and first since the World Cup quarter-final defeat to Wales in October 2011.
The uncapped Madigan, 23, landed four from five place-kicks in the 40-5 defeat of Treviso, also on Saturday night, to leave Leinster third in the Rabo Pro 12 table.
The main injury concern in the 29-man squad is Ulster flanker Chris Henry, who must undergo a scan today after hurting his knee against Zebre.
Kidney will call up a thirtieth player if Connacht’s inside centre David McSharry gets the all clear from a back strain that forced him to miss Friday’s 22-10 defeat of the Ospreys.
With the decision to replace Sexton seemingly made, Gordon D’Arcy’s foot injury has created a far tougher call for the Irish management.
Brian O’Driscoll may be the solution, with Keith Earls or even Darren Cave playing outside centre, but Luke Marshall, Fergus McFadden, Luke Fitzgerald and McSharry are others vying for the vacant number 12 jersey.
Marshall performed exceptionally well against Fiji in November but his game time since has been curtailed by Paddy Wallace in Ulster and a finger injury. He is expected to recover from the dead legs he sustained on Friday night to train tomorrow.
The squad assembles in Carton House this evening.
The physical damage inflicted by England continues to take its toll elsewhere, with a new left winger and secondrow also to come in against Scotland.
Simon Zebo’s replacement will be one from Earls, McFadden and Fitzgerald, with the latter producing a fine performance from fullback at the RDS.
This selection is dependent on what Kidney and attack coach Les Kiss decide is their best midfield partnership. As it stands, Fitzgerald and McFadden are being viewed as wingers, with Ulster’s Andrew Trimble overlooked yet again.
Donncha O’Callaghan is another long-serving Cork man set for an Indian summer in the starting Irish XV due to injury to Connacht’s Leinster-bound lock Mike McCarthy.
The battle to provide secondrow cover is between Ulster pair Iain Henderson and Lewis Stevenson and Leinster’s Devin Toner. Henderson is the favourite, having been capped in November, allied to his ability to play blindside flanker.
The other forced change to the side is at loosehead prop where Tom Court has been called up for the suspended Cian Healy, with Munster’s David Kilcoyne in line for his first Test start.
At least Scotland’s veteran tighthead Euan Murray will not be in opposition as his religious beliefs preclude him from playing on a Sunday.
The IRFU were last night still awaiting the written judgement from Wednesday’s Six Nations disciplinary hearing, chaired by Roger Morris (Wales), that ruled Healy out of the Scottish and French matches. No decision can be been until they see it but an appeal is expected to be lodged to get Healy back for France’s visit to Dublin on March 9th.
Rory Best (Ulster), Darren Cave (Ulster), Tom Court (Ulster), Seán Cronin (Leinster), James Coughlan (Munster), Keith Earls (Munster), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster), Declan Fitzpatrick (Ulster), Craig Gilroy (Ulster), Robin Henshaw (Connacht), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Ian Henderson (Ulster), Chris Henry (Ulster), Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), David Kilcoyne (Munster), Luke Marshall (Ulster), Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster), Seán O’Brien (Leinster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster), Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster), Ronan O’Gara (Munster, right), Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Lewis Stevenson (Ulster), Devin Toner (Leinster).