McFadden the great survivor is back for rendezvous with Scarlets
Leinster back hoping to leave injury woes behind and focus on Pro14 tasks ahead
Fergus McFadden: “I’ve had lots of setbacks in lots of different ways. I’ve learned to deal with them and leave them at the door here or on the pitch when they happen.” Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
True to his good-humoured and energetic self, Fergus McFadden could be seen racing onto the pitch and celebrating with his teammates after Leinster completed both of last season’s final wins over Racing 92 and Scarlets, and without a care in the world – or even a crutch. As ever, he had worn his outrageously bad luck well.
Where to start? Three seasons ago, he was the author of his own premature end to the season when he compounded a two-try performance in a Guinness Pro12 win over Edinburgh by incurring a three-week ban for a dangerously high tackle, and was never reinstated in the play-off stages.
Two seasons ago, he was sidelined for almost five months from the beginning of October to the end of February with a bad thigh injury, restricting him to just 10 games.
But McFadden is one of the great survivors of recent times, and last season, after turning 31, he had his most productive and rewarding season in five seasons, despite the arrival of James Lowe and the emergence of Jordan Larmour to further swell Leinster’s array of wingers.
Super-fit, free of injury, unflinchingly brave and tough, such was his form that last February McFadden bridged a gap of almost two years since his previous test when coming on for the dramatic endgame in Paris, and he also played in Ireland’s win at home over Wales. Playing 17 times for Leinster, he was an ever-present in the European Cup, scoring tries in the quarter-final win over Saracens and the semi-final against Scarlets.
Alas, it was in the latter act that McFadden’s season was ended by a torn hamstring.
Facing the media for the first time since then, McFadden said: “It was definitely difficult on the day [in the Aviva watching the Pro14 final] and also the final in Bilbao, knowing that I could have been out there.”
“I suppose I turned into a bit of a supporter because it was such a good occasion. We played so well, particularly in that Pro14 final, and showed such good fight in the Bilbao one. It kinda just showed where the team had come to, really. Disappointing for me personally but it’s about the group, really. It was just a great end to the season.”
He is also quick to absolve Scarlets’ winger Steff Evans of causing the injury by landing, feet first, into a diving McFadden.
His disappointment was considerably eased when his wife Rebecca gave birth to their first child, Freddy, in early June
“I don’t think it could have been avoided because it actually wasn’t anything to do with Steff Evans. A few people thought that it was him that jumped on top of me after it [try], but the injury actually happened when I took my first stride on the way to the corner, so it [hamstring] had popped at that stage.”
He also laughs off any notion that he did well to score. “Well, I wouldn’t have been allowed back in the building again if I didn’t finish that one! So yeah, it was nothing to do with Steff Evans, in fairness.”
His disappointment was also considerably eased when his wife Rebecca gave birth to their first child, Freddy, in early June. That made for “a different summer”, with “a couple of getaways down the country”, but he has also said he’s never been happier.
“It definitely hasn’t changed my perspective on what goes on in here. It is the same mentality and at the weekend playing a match. But it probably changes my perspective on life anyway. There is a lot more responsibility outside of the day job here, which is great. I’m looking forward to, hopefully, Freddy coming along to a couple of games at home this year. It would be nice to do that.”
Slings and arrows
Nor has fatherhood changed the way he deals with the slings and arrows of the game.
“I’ve had so many setbacks. It hasn’t been a perfect career. I’ve had lots of setbacks in lots of different ways. I’ve learned to deal with them and leave them at the door here or on the pitch when they happen.I definitely don’t bring them home. I’ve got my own coping mechanisms for them and I deal with them pretty well, I think.”
McFadden scored his first points of the season with a penalty after coming on as an early replacement for Barry Daly in last week’s win over Cardiff. Back in the period from 2009 to 2012, McFadden scored over 250 points, and while that thigh injury two seasons ago restricted his ability to practice for some time after, with Isa Nacewa and Joey Carbery having moved on, he’s ready and willing to assume the responsibility again when needed.
Next up in West Wales on Saturday, another rendezvous with the Scarlets and Evans.
“Going over and getting five points in Cardiff, if we’d been told that before the game, we would have taken it, but conceding 32 points for us is not good enough, because we pride ourselves on our ‘D’. That’s one of the pillars to our game. So that was disappointing.
“The Scarlets, at home, after losing against Ulster, their backs will be against the wall, so it’s not going to be any easier from a defensive perspective. We’re going to have to be an awful lot better.”