Madigan may be played at outhalf for Wolfhound game

Leinster back has had limited time in position where there is now an Irish crisis

Ian Madigan, who may play at outhalf on Friday for the Wolfhounds, will be looking to bounce back after uncharacteristically missing four kicks against Wasps. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

As Joe Schmidt seeks a solution to his outhalf problem for the first of the Six Nations Championship games in Rome, Irish management will look to Ian Madigan's character to shine through for the Wolfhounds against England Saxons on Friday.

The Leinster back, who has had limited time at outhalf this season and who will come into the game having uncharacteristically missed four kicks for Leinster against Wasps last weekend, will be given a chance to show how he can shake off adversity and quickly get back into what has been an impressive kicking groove as well as control an international standard match from out half.

It's in Madigan nature to embrace challenges rather than shirk them, which is exactly what Schmidt will be looking for at Musgrave Park. Ian Keatley is the other pivot available in the absence of the concussed Johnny Sexton and injured Paddy Jackson. Madigan's bravado and verve are rarely hidden under a bushel.

"Yeah, he was obviously very disappointed. It's one of those things that happen from time to time. If you look at him over the course of two years or even three years he hasn't missed that amount of kicks in a game," said kicking and skills coach Richie Murphy.


“The first one he hit was an excellent kick and then the two that he missed were pretty poor kicks by his standards. The other two were actually quite good kicks but they were missed on the other side.

“We would talk a lot about refocusing in after a miss on getting technically right and focussing on your pre-kick routine and stuff like that. He’s obviously disappointed but I’d back him to bounce back very quickly from that.

“That’s the type of character he is. Although he was bitterly disappointed afterwards (v Wasps) you would back him to bounce back straight away because things like that where it affects him in the immediate term, within a couple of days he’ll move on.”

But his Leinster role as an inside centre may hurt his chances and having to shift to a more nuanced position and excel will take some adjustment. It’s not all about his natural ability to break tackles and gain yards in heavy traffic.

Game time

“The big issue obviously for

Ian Madigan

is that he hasn’t been playing at 10,” says Murphy. “Those are the issues that we have in front of us. We’re just addressing them as they come up. There might be a possibility that Ian will get some game time at 10 this week. Then we’ll just have to settle down and make our decisions on the back of what happens there.”

Murphy cautiously added that they expected Conor Murray to be ready for next week, although, he included the condition that the scrumhalf would be seeking another medical opinion this week and on that his availability to play will hinge.

They are expecting Reddan to pull through for Rome following ‘a light medial (ligament) injury” to his knee but again there is little that’s definitive..

"He's recovered massively in the last 24 hours and we're expecting him to be able to get back to training next week," said Murphy of Reddan. But Murphy concedes that the issue of the halfbacks at this stage has also become a distraction. Isaac Boss will turn 35-years-old in April, while Kieran Marmion is hugely inexperienced at international level.

“Yeah, that’s a massive thing. The two out-halves are probably a little bit closer (in experience),” said Murphy.

The party line is the same as has been pedalled over the last few weeks with regard to prop Cian Healy and flanker Sean O'Brien. Their long-term injuries are being judiciously monitored and much as Schmidt wants them to be available they are not quite making their marks. Flanker O'Brien may play but there will be no decision made until later this week.

Healy, who hasn’t played since September, is unlikely to play, while Dave Kearney’s shoulder “isn’t as bad as feared”.

On that dangerous tackle, which saw the Leinster winger tumble from a height after fielding the first high ball of the match, Wasps flanker Ashley Johnson has been cited with his hearing scheduled for Thursday.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times