Ian Madigan thought he would not play for Ireland while in France, but Joe Schmidt may be forced to call on the mercurial pivot for this year’s Six Nations, should injuries add up.
Schmidt named his squad today, leaving out the former Leinster man, but has gone with just two out-halves.
Leinster’s 24-24 draw with Castres on Friday night came at a cost, with Jonathan Sexton yet again having t0 leave the field with injury, raising questions over his availability for the Six Nations. This raises a question for Schmidt; with Sexton a liability and Joey Carbery recovering from a serious ankle injury, should Ian Madigan be given the call?
Ulster’s disappointing loss to Bordeaux gave us a look at what Irish rugby has lost with Madigan giving a performance of his usual standard, adding ten points from the boot and creatively attacking the Ulster line in a manner that perhaps would not be seen from his opposite number.
While Paddy Jackson is a reliable option, he does not have the creativity and flair that Madigan possesses.
Nonetheless, Schmidt has gone with Jackson and Sexton.
Is there a lack of options within the provinces?
Schmidt prefers to pick from the provinces, but there are no Irish-qualified players with the experience, or quality, for test rugby available. Jack Carty has looked good with ball in hand for Connacht, but his goal-kicking is very inconsistent.
Ian Keatley has been consigned to a replacement role for Munster this season, and he too has had his difficulties off the tee.
Leinster’s Ross Byrne has gone from the province’s fourth choice out-half to starting Champions Cup ties, but he is lacking the experience of controlling big games.
Rory Scannell is a quality playmaker but generally plays as a centre with Munster. While Scannell made the squad, he will be acting as back-up to Robbie Henshaw.
Given his record with injury, it is a very real possibility that Ireland will have to plan without Sexton for some of their Six Nations campaign. Madigan’s decision-making under pressure is questionable at times, but he is the most exciting fly-half at Ireland’s disposal, and a very reliable kicker off the tee.
Madigan may have thought his time in an Ireland shirt was over when Bordeaux called, but this Six Nations may change that.
Joseph O’Gorman, Pundit Arena