Leinster 'top of my list' but Ian Madigan a better fit for Connacht right now
About 20 minutes into Ian Madigan's round-table interview and the mood is sombre. Everyone is asking questions in hushed tones. Madigan is clearing his throat as he gets his answers out. Each corner filled with a worried look.
27-years-old, living in Bordeaux, playing in the Top 14 on a lucrative contract and this feels like a wake.
Madigan is coming up to eight months out of Ireland, playing with Bordeaux-Beglés, and extraction is on his mind.
Bordeaux duffed up a great chance to reach the Champions Cup quarter finals and their positive start to the domestic league season seems like a distant memory - they are in 9th and seven points off the top six but desperately short of form and confidence. Madigan has not started for Bordeaux in the Top 14 since October 30.
He definitely hadn't planned it like this.
Asked for his take on his first season abroad, after seven with Leinster, Madigan launches into an epic reply that plays out the reverse of the traditional rollercoaster - flying start followed by that gut-churning grind and sense of worry that won't go away. Five wins from the opening six games and it was all going well until Madigan's increased work-load led to a groin injury.
He kept that injury to himself as he tried to shake it off, and hold down that 10 jersey. It was not the best decision. He says:
"It was nothing too serious and I was able to manage it as I was going along, but but it would affect me if I stepped hard off one foot or if I slipped, I would get a bit of pain off it, or if I didn't connect perfectly with a kick, I would get a bit of pain off it.
"That fed into other parts of my game and because I was getting this pain, my confidence was getting affected slightly. I was still able to train and play in the games but my performances were waning slightly."
A duff outing against Castres eventually led to him raising the injury with the Bordeaux medical staff and a groin tear [a "fissure"] being discovered. He sat out four club games and also missed out on Ireland's November internationals. By the time he got back, 23-year-old Kiwi outhalf Simon Hickey was in possession of the 10 jersey.
Get him home
Madigan started several Champions Cup pool games when he regained fitness but he has struggled for a Top 14 look-in. That, allied with poor club form and the impending departure of Adam Ashley Cooper led to Madigan knocking on the door of the Bordeaux president for clear-the-air talks.
He insists that he would be happy to stay on in France but our talk of a return to Ireland sees him perk up. He says:
"Yeah, a move back to Ireland would certainly excite me. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. Playing for Ireland is still the ultimate for me.
"The reason I made the move was to improve as a rugby player, the reason why I had that conversation with our president is because I didn’t feel that I had the confidence of the coaches or many of the players, so I was in there to get to the bottom of it and try improve that situation."
Having previously stated his Leinster allegiances, Madigan is now open to signing up with any Irish province. He states:
"Returning to Leinster would no doubt be top of my list. Living here, all my friends are here, having played for Leinster; it's a pretty special place but I would certainly be open to playing for any of the provinces.
"One thing that moving away this year has done has definitely opened up my horizons on who I can play for. Without doubt, the way professional sport is going; players are going to have to do that more."
Leinster may be top of the list but his departure has coincided with Joey Carbery and Ross Byrne emerging as live options for Leo Cullen. The road home is not clear and, right now, Connacht look to be the best fit.
It's not what he envisaged as he returned home from Ireland's encouraging tour of South Africa and packed his bags for a trip to France. Fair play to him for trying but the move has definitely seen his stock drop.
Ireland international and former Ireland U20s out-half, Ian Madigan announces Electric Ireland’s continued support of the Under 20’s Six Nations home games in Donnybrook. Electric Ireland believe in Smarter Living and for rugby fans these matches are the smarter choice to experience the Six Nations atmosphere while seeing at first hand the future stars of Irish rugby.